Debunking a County Commissioner Myth from this week

I have to keep this brief but I wanted to address a publication I saw in regards to Mike Ritz and his “fact based” numbers surrounding the affordability of municipal districts. Two assumptions that drove his numbers:

1) Municipal Districts will have to pay for the buildings

2) Municipal Districts will not achieve the cost savings that the unified district will bring


Both assumptions are absolutely false. And actually are incredibly misinformed.

1) Buildings follow children much like money follows children. In the world of an ASD takeover of a school, the entire school goes to the state with no cost. When a charter school converts, they are required to pay rent. When a municipal school converts, there is legal precedent for those schools to follow those children. The reality is that our board must confront the disparity across all schools within its policy to make them make them consistent(if we don’t the state will). We cannot allow one different access than the other when an entire school is converted. But his worst case scenario that he uses for his figures to inflate property tax numbers have little merit.

2) The cost of urban and suburban education is vastly different because the of the habits of people in both socio-economic areas. Case in point, Tuesday night, our board reviewed several contracts for companies to provide services. The first one was:

  • Dunbar armored in the amount $400,000.
  • Loomis armored in the amount of $165,000

These 2 contracts were to provide money pick-up services for schools across the entire district for the entire year. Interestingly enough though, it does not make sense to do this across the entire district.  Urban schools take almost only cash due to the high amounts of bad checks that are written. However, the suburban schools no longer take cash but only checks and debit for things like lunches. Checks can be remotely scanned for deposit while cash has to be collected and physically deposited. If you can carve out the money pick-ups from 25% of the schools, you could potentially save $141,000 worth of unneeded pick-ups.

  • Allied Waste Pickup in the amount of 1.1 million/ year.. – some municipal can pickup the trash and institute recycle program instead on contracting trash. On 11 schools that could be 65Kish per year…


And this goes on for hundreds of line items.

The reality is that Mike Ritz assumes the same socio-economic preferences and technology preferences of the urban districts which are much higher in costs  than suburban districts making his overall numbers incredibly inflated. That will not be the case in suburban district making them ultimately less expensive and more focused on education. He does not take into consideration shared services which potentially  drive down overall costs even more..

And making Mr. Ritz analysis,  How can I say this nicely? Garbage


The County Commission 2014 – A New Journey

I have spent a lot of time the past few months deliberating what my political future looks like since my seat on the SCS Board expires next year. After much thought as to what the best fit would be for my family and I, we have come to the conclusion that the Shelby County Commission would be the best place to serve. And in many ways, it is very timely.

The county commission will move to 13 single member districts in 2014. Today multiple members are elected from the same districts. This new map will substantially shrink the size of the districts making them much easier to represent. Also, all 13 seats will be up for election so there will be no incumbent based upon the current district. ( Trust me, I have experience with this when my seat was redrawn in 2012.)

So here are the who, what, when, where, and how:

1) Who will I be running against? I do not know at this point

2) What and Where will i be running? County Commission District 3 which is made up of Bartlett and Lake land almost exclusively.

3) When will he election be? This is a partisan race which means there will be a primary (in May 2014, if there is a challenger) that will decide who the Republican and Democrat nominees. The general election will be the August General County election in August 2014.

4) Why am I running? Fairly simple. Because i believe that  our county government has so much more potential that is being currently displayed. The animosity between our governments is putting Shelby County at a strategic disadvantage compared to our peers across the country. We have to get back to solutions to drive competition in our region. That begins with bold discussions regarding our business environment, our schools, and our core county services. The only tax rate I support is one that supports a core set of strategic goals and objectives. And today, that tax rate is too high

I will run hard. I will run clean. I will run based upon the issues.

Finally, I would like to say that  4 years of working with a board of 23 and a 1.3 billion dollar budget has prepared me for this next step. I look forward to the race. I look forward to continuing to serve many of you. This position is important and as we get more into the campaign swing I will work to educate you on what this group does(other than suing its own people).

Thanks to you all for your support. I look forward to serving each and every one of you. If you would like to serve on my campaign team, please feel free to message me.

Copy of the county commission map: cc map

57 Million Dollars – Time to pay the piper

There are few unresolved merger related items. Non more important than the outstanding 57 million dollar judgment the city of Memphis owes SCS. There have been attempts to negotiate the amount based upon a so-called counter-claim the city of Memphis has filed against its former school system.

I am truly beginning to believe that the charter surrender was more about divorce proceedings from the city of Memphis. Never really had anything to do with us, it had to do with irreconcilable differences between MCS and MCC. Well, as part of the divorce, the courts granted a 57 million dollar judgment that the courts have not enforced.

57 million is important because it could help bridge the gap of funding for the SCS while our maintenance of effort settles over the next few months. However, agreement has eluded all parties.

So in order to drive this to a conclusion, I will present a resolution to ask the General Assembly create legislation to address local funding bodies who decide they will not pay their state mandated maintenance of effort. And the question is: If a judge cannot make them pay, how will the assembly make them pay?

Pretty simple: The city of Memphis receives state allocations of sales tax and other money specifically paid by the state. They could just simply withhold the money and pay to education. But to get to that, we need a process and enabling legislation. IF passed, this will be presented to Senator Norris and Rep Lollar. Attached you will find the resolution that will be presented.

State Resolution



County Commission Needs a Makeover

After watching our county commission operate over the past couple of years, I think I finally have a sense of what really has become one of the most divisive and dysfunctional groups in our county(yes. Even more so than the new school board)

Yesterday, the county commission voted down a tax increase to fund the budget that it had approved a couple of weeks earlier. After watching, the chairman’s vote, it appears that the tax rate vote was about gamesmanship and who becomes chairman of the county commission.

The reality is that this commission approved a budget and then denied the funding for it. Now, I don’t support tax hikes. And I really don’t support government waste. But coming to a meeting and voting for or against a tax rate without offering any viable solutions to reduce the cost of government is a tragedy. (This is aimed mostly at those who approve a tax rate without bringing any ideas to the table on how to reduce it)

Our commission is failing us because the are more about standing against something as opposed to working towards something. The Shelby County budget is one of those. Almost every municipality in the county raised their rate to provide the same level of tax support except for county government. Realistically what that says is that we have to do more with less or better said we either cut salaries or we cut jobs and effect services.

Do we as a county really want to cut services?

Our county commission needs to work towards collaborative government that is proactive, about ideas and facts, and less about circular rhetoric taking a stance on something just because you would rather fight than work together.

This all boils down to a failure of our leadership. How in the world did the SCS work together with 23 members and still cut over 100 million out of a budget? We had to collaborate. And at the end of the day, there was lots of pain but we all shared it.

So what would I like to see happen? See agreement in the following areas..

#1 – Low competitive tax rate for our county and for our municipalities

#2 – quality education for all students

#3 – a safe county where people desire to live with quality police and fire

#4 – low unemployment rate and attractive business environment

#5 – an acceptable alternative to pilots

These are all places that we probably agree. It is just the avenue(how) that we have to agree on.

I will lay one example for your consideration as an idea. Shelby County Schools IT services budgeted 27 million dollars this year, Shelby County Government budgeted 10 million dollars this year. Memphis City Government budgeted 17 million dollars this year for IT. On the Shelby County alone(SCS and Shelby County) that is 37 million dollars.

Why not condense our IT infrastructure and support services into one department? That will reduce headcount and collapse data centers and other fixed costs- Cost Reduction

Then lets convert our IT infrastructure into a shared service model in which Memphis (or whomever) can just subscribe to services for a fee.- Revenue capability

Within this model, we can provision infrastructure and provide IT capacity and availability(as a service) at a reduced rate to new start-up businesses instead of providing pilot incentives on real estate. Do we realize that the reason a business needs a PILOT is because the county tax rate is on high on businesses? – Revenue Capability

Utilize  capacity in our infrastructure pipeline as opposed to just giving a pilot that last forever and my not return anything.

And we don’t have to have consolidation to get there.

Ladies and gentlemen, these are the types of discussions we need to have. We can fix the tax rate and provide quality services but we need to move out of the stone ages. We need new blood…

And at least, when a tax rate increase has been brought to the table, we know that we all did everything we could to avoid it. And then we can vote aye or nay with the facts.


Shifting Gears – District Teacher Recruiting and Investment

There is a lot to be said for incredible teachers. And unfortunately, it has been hard to recruit and retain teachers for some of our toughest schools in the county. And unfortunately, we have had to use outside groups to close some of the gaps.(TFA, etc.)

Now, I think I have had enough of outsourcing our county jobs and I really would like to see us create a sustainable, effective, well-paid teaching core.

For me that starts with effective recruiting. And I believe our most logical pool of candidates resides in the 130K+ students that we teach everyday.

  • I would like to see us develop and district wide instructional path for students who want to have a career in teaching in the SCS.(including dual credit)
  • I would like for SCS to develop a strategic partnership with our university partners to develop a reduced cost path to licensure.
  • I would like to see SCS help fund the needed college costs for the student.(avoiding       the need for student loans) The teacher will repay the cost by committing a minimum level of service to the district. If they leave sooner, they will repay a pro-rated share of the cost back to the district.
  • I would like to see the district pay for advanced degrees for a committed level of service to the district.

Why go out and recruit an outside contract teacher(TFA, etc.), when we can organically grow effective teachers in-house, help them meet their educational goals, and funnel them back into our district for the same price?

We should invest in our core and not divest. Our return on investment would be tremendous.

For Goodness Sake – Let’s put the school buildings issue to bed

It has been a long almost 2 years living as one of 23 board members. Now, that the merger of the districts are complete, I would really like to focus on BETTER education for all of Shelby County. I think there are lots of great ideas to be explored that focuses less on reform and more on redesigning some of our educational programs.

However, we have this continual cloud hanging over our heads in terms of buildings and how they are dealt with municipal school districts.Yesterday, the news(by way of Melvin Burgess) brought up some stink over OPEB and if the liability should be broken up over the district.

There are a couple of statements to be made here because I have heard Martavious Jones use this mine vs. yours language before.

There are some who believe that this process should be treated like a divorce. In a divorce settlement a judge and attorneys mediate who gets what. I have heard over and over again a desire from some leaders in Memphis that you split the baby. Muni-districts buy buildings and take their share of accumulated opeb liability.

However, the unfortunate fallacy of that argument rears its head in go-forward funding for the SCS district. If you make an MSD pay for buildings and assume liability for opeb, you have created a pretty good case for them to no longer pay into the county tax rate for county education. This would be a disaster for county school funding.

Then there are some(like me) who believes that collaborative government rules the day. That means that we agree that all of the taxpayers up to this point have invested tax dollars for the good of all children. And that going forward, we will continue to do so. Maximizing idle resources and infrastructure makes the most sense to get the most out of a county tax dollar. That means that we share things like IT, Nutrition, SPED services, and BUILDINGS..

The reality is that we should work together. We have not done that with charter schools by not allowing access to the buildings for free and now they are going to the ASD (achievement school district) and getting them for nothing. In the near future, we will deal with buildings for charter, ASD, and whether we like it or not municipals. I do not believe that we can split them.

It really is about putting the politics of education behind and quit squabbling about money. Theses solutions are not hard. There are just many hard heads.