School Buildings Update

Within the host of activity in the legislature, there has been some “progress” made on disposition of school buildings. You will not find tv or print coverage of anyone on this subject because they were not there. Tuesday night, our facilities ad hoc committee met to discuss recommendations on buildings. This committee has 3 members, Raphael McInnis, Patrice Robinson, and David Reaves. We are the only three that can move a suggestion out of committee although other board members can come. Martavious was there(he had just gotten back from Nashville), Reginald Porter from Whitehaven, and Kevin Woods from District 4. Vanecia Kimbrough was there as well. I was the only pro-municipal/ anti consolidation person in the room. However, I have to say that some interesting things came out of this meeting:

1) We recommended a resolution pledging our intent  to work with the municipalities if they decide to create their own district.

2) We all agreed that instances where a property was not surplus that we could lease by cooperative agreement as long as the lease was tied to municipalities educating the county kids in the feeder pattern.

3) I did not agree with the concept of leasing all buildings regardless if they were surplus or not. So I proposed an agreement that any buildings that became surplus as a result of a municipal district that those buildings would have title conveyed to the municipality. I got support on the idea from Kimbrough and Freda Williams on the idea. Kevin Woods did not like the idea of the municipality being able to dispose of these buildings for reasons other than education so we included possible language to put a restriction on the deed that if a municipality dropped its charter or tried to sell the building for reasons other than education that the title would revert back to the county.

4) My last idea was straight out of the playbook of how we have handled annexation in the past. I asked that if an agreement was feasible to title all of the buildings to the municipal governments in exchange for forfeiture of future ADA capital dollars. In short, every time the county builds buildings it must pay a portion to each school district in the county for future capital needs. In this scenario, millions of future dollars will be forfeit if we just signed over the buildings, no tax restrictions, and allowed the cities to educate their own kids. 

With all of that said, I see the following discussion developing around:

1) All buildings declared surplus as a result of a municipal school district, will be deeded to the new school district and a title restriction with how the property will be conveyed in the future.

2) All buildings that are not declared surplus and have both unincorp and muni children will be conveyed via long-term lease and will continue for as long as the district educates the county children. As soon as they quit educating all children, the lease terminates and goes back to the county.

3) How do we leverage ADA capital dollars as part of the solution long-term?

Interesting and telling going forward. Stay tuned…

So what’s up with municipal schools?

There has been quite a bit of drama the past couple of weeks as it pertains to municipal schools and legislative maneuvering. Lets start with what is for certain:

1) August 1 2013, the prohibition on municipal and special school districts will be raised. At that point, new school districts can start.

2) On August 1st, 2013, the SCS will consist of a seven member board(unless the county commission decides to expand to 13).

3)A couple of weeks ago an attorney general(Cooper) offered an opinion stating  that no referendums or school board elections shall take place prior to the ban being lifted.As a result of the opinion, the election commission pulled the municipal referendums until such time that it would be legal.

4) Two bills have been making their way through the TN legislature. One bill lifts the prohibition on municipal school districts starting Jan 1 2013. The other is an amendment to fashion a Planning process(like Norris-Todd) for municipal school districts starting as soon as it passes.. Lets take each bill one at a time…

The bill to lift the prohibition on muni districts in Jan 1 passed the senate easily. However, once it got to the house education committee, it was amended to effectively only pertain to those counties that have special school districts that utilize the norris-todd path for consolidation. Unfortunate for the rest of the state, including our neighbors like Fayette county, this would leave them out. There are other counties that could utilize this path so it does not only pertain to Shelby County. Shelby County is just going through it. This sends the bill to the house for a full vote. If the house approves, it must go back to the senate for concurrence or to conference committee for reconciliation.

The other bill was a bill on evaluations that was amended on the senate floor to include language to set up a process to create municipal districts prior to the prohibition being lifted. It is not unheard of the amend on the senate floor but the bill sponsor in the house supposedly did not know it was coming. Either way, the senate passed it and the bill went to the house for a floor vote yesterday where it was picked apart. Montgomery wound up pulling the bill and sending it back to the senate or in this case to conference committee. Conference Committee is a joint group of 3 senators and 3 house reps and they reconcile differences. They are picked by the party in power.

So what is the future of the bills? The bills were written to conform with Norris-Todd, however, they are to make sure all the municipal school work can be done so on August 1 2013, municipal schools open. Worst case is that these schools open 2014. Not ideal but better than not having muni districts at all.

I will tell you that In facilities AD Hoc Meeting the other day, that Martavious Jones revealed his hand as he is ready for us to query Judge Mayes on this topic as it has become “ripe” in his mind. So I expect some legal maneuvering soon on this subject. I will tell you as a Bartlett citizen that I just put a contract on another house here is Bartlett. I am here and planning on staying here.

This is how confident I am in our schools in this part of the county. I fully expect schools in the municipalities will have their own school district.

District 3 Dilemma

After spending much time in deliberation, i made the decision last week to go ahead and run the unified school board. The decision was driven mainly by the need to make sure we kept the right suburban representation on the board. However, this move did not come without it risks and was a measured decision based upon timing.

Depending on what happens with legislation in Nashville, if I win, I may only serve a few months until Bartlett seats its school board. Once Bartlett seats it s school board, the county commission will be forced to redraw the lines and 3 will be redrawn out of Bartlett which means my seat will be vacated and someone will be appointed. Not knowing what the absolute plan is for legislation, I thought it would be best to give us an insurance policy.

However, I truly believe that this will be a short tenure on this board…