Shelby County’s tax burden just became more inequitable.

It happened when four Shelby County Commissioners whose constituents are primarily within Memphis  – Steve Basar,  Heidi Shafer,  James Harvey, and Justin Ford – voted to end the four-cent rural school tax that was instituted to pay for a high school for Arlington and shift the burden to residents of Memphis

The rural school bond was approved about a decade ago and it resulted in the old Memphis City Schools not receiving its state-mandated Average Daily Attendance (ADA) share, which could amount to an estimated $60-75 million.

It seems only fair that if Shelby County Schools is seeking $57 million from City of Memphis for funding for the old Memphis district, it should seek repayment from Shelby County Government for changing the rules in the middle of the game when it comes to the rural school tax.  In essence, Memphians will now be paying most of the remaining costs for the Arlington school bonds.

As a result of the elimination of the tax, residents of Shelby County outside Memphis had their property tax rate reduced five cents.  People inside Memphis got a grand total of one cent.

Here’s what our friend, Steve Ross, at vibinc had to say about it:

Every once in a while someone does something that makes you wonder if they think you’re stupid.

You’ve probably felt what I’m talking about a time or two.

They give you that look.

They slight you in some way.

Or they sell you on a tax cut in an election year, to hide the fact that they gave someone else an even BIGGER, and unjustified tax cut.

If you left Monday’s Shelby County Commission meeting with that taste in your mouth, there’s a good reason…that’s exactly what happened.

Bad Taste in your mouth

In setting the County’s tax rate Monday, the Shelby County Commission gave a 5-cent tax cut to everyone outside of Memphis, and a 1-cent tax cut to people inside Memphis.

How’d they do that? They got rid of a 4-cent rural school bond passed years ago for the construction of Arlington High school.

The bond was only paid by residents in the former Shelby County School District because they got a school out of the deal. Tennessee’s ‘rural school bond’ law, allows a County to issue bonds, set to be paid by a specific group of people for a school, without matching funds for the other schools in that county. So for years, folks outside Memphis have been paying this additional 4-cents for the bond that paid for the construction of Arlington High.

Well, now that the old Shelby County Schools are no more, and only Arlington and Lakeland are using the Arlington High School, folks out in the ‘burbs don’t wanna pay that extra 4-cents for a school that’s not part of their district. And for Arlington and Lakeland to raise enough money to pay the four something million bucks of debt service would have meant raising their County tax rate something ridiculous, and that just doesn’t play in an election year.

To read more, click here.