This post was submitted by Jimmie Covington, veteran Memphis reporter with lengthy experience covering governmental, school and demographic issues. He is now a contributing writer with The Best Times, a monthly news magazine for active people 50 and older.  

By Jimmie Covington

The way the funding and taxes break down, property taxpayers in the suburban cities overall are subsidizing the county school district, which operates schools in Memphis and the unincorporated areas.

The average daily attendance (ADA) ratio of the county district to the suburban districts combined is 79.16-20.84. The ratio of assessed value of property for tax purposes in the area served by Shelby County schools to the combined values of the suburban municipalities is 71.44-28.56.

These figures make it clear that the municipal school districts receive less money from the county than is collected in their districts in county property taxes for schools while the Shelby School System receives more in county tax funds than is collected in the area served by the county school system.

How the subsidizing breaks down on an individual suburban city and town basis is unclear and would require more analysis; however, it is clear based on their sizes and assessed value of property that Bartlett, Collierville and Germantown are receiving less in county school funding than is collected within their boundaries in county property taxes for schools.

It’s unclear what the situation is in the three smaller municipalities — Lakeland, Arlington and Millington.

State law requires that county tax funds be split among all public school districts within a county on an average daily attendance basis and not based on where the tax funds are collected.

It is a method to provide equity in county funding for all children in public schools in a county. The county collects property taxes from property owners throughout the county and then funds each public school child at the save level whether the child is in a county school or municipal school.

A weighting formula is used based on what grades the children are in and such things as whether a child needs special education services because of physical or mental conditions.

The major reason that advocates of the city schools charter surrender sought approval for giving up the charter was that they feared that schools in Memphis would be cut off from the countywide property tax base if a special school district were formed in the county outside Memphis.

It seems questionable whether that was a valid fear. Once the charter was surrendered, there seemed to be little if any support in the legislature for creation of a special school district. However, officials of the suburban municipalities did receive support for formation of municipal school districts.

The creation of the municipal school districts did give the citizens of the cities and towns in the suburbs the flexibility to raise municipal taxes to aid their school systems if they felt the county was not providing enough for school operations and new buildings.

Figures that received little if any attention from Memphis’ major news media during the debate over charter surrender reflected that at current values, schools in Memphis would lose about $28 million annually from property owners outside Memphis if a special county district were formed while in voting to surrender the charter, they chose to give up about $60 million in annual Memphis funding.

Here are the average daily attendance percentages for the county school district and municipal districts in the past school year as a result of the attendance reported to the state that

County schools Supt. Dorsey Hobson reported the figures to county Trustee David Lenoir in March:

*  Shelby County Schools 79.16

*  Arlington 3.38

*  Bartlett  5.66

*  Collierville 5.37

*  Germantown 4.01

*  Lakeland 0.56

*  Millington  1.86


–          Previously published in The Best Times magazine.