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Mayor says Lucy not needed for municipal school district

By Bill Short

Millington Interim Mayor Linda Carter told Lucy residents last week that the city does not need to annex their community to create a municipal school district.

The feasibility study report that the Board of Mayor and Aldermen received from Southern Educational Strategies indicated that Millington would need the Lucy students in order to have the minimum 1,500 that Tennessee requires for a school district. But Carter said there are “more than enough” school-age children who currently live inside the city limits.

“I felt that all along,” she noted. “I truly believed that. So, that issue doesn’t even apply.”

The mayor made the comments last Thursday night at Lucy Baptist Church during an informational meeting on the Lucy annexation referendum. In the Nov. 6 election, the community’s residents will vote on whether they want to be annexed into the city.

Carter said it is difficult for anyone to comprehend what is going on “under the radar” in Memphis and Shelby County government, because there is so much “above the radar” regarding schools. She noted that District 32 State Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, has said the schools issue is not about schools, but about “control, power, money and consolidation.”

The mayor said those like her who have lived in Millington for many years knew that “looming on the horizon” was the consolidation of the city of Memphis and Shelby County.

“And having been a teacher in Shelby County for 30 years, I knew all along that the real probability of consolidation of the schools occurring was their giving up their Charter and saying, ‘Merry Christmas,’” she acknowledged. “And that’s exactly what occurred.”

Noting that this is the 40th year of consolidation of the city of Nashville and Davidson County, Carter said what occurred there is “exactly” what is occurring in Shelby County. When the schools are consolidated, she said, the “bigger issues” are resolved.

While Tennessee law mandates a sheriff’s office for every county, Carter said it does not require that a city have a police or fire department. So, Shelby County provides its fire protection through fire facility fees.

“And each of you who resides outside of a municipality or in Lakeland pays those fees,” she noted. “By law, those fire fees have to fully fund the Shelby County Fire Department.”

Carter said County Mayor Mark Luttrell told her that, with the annexation of Cordova, the county lost slightly more than $1 million in fire fees.

“They just hired 26 new firefighters and opened a new fire station,” she said. “So, somebody’s going to have to pay more if Shelby County continues to have a fire department.”

Carter said she believes the “greater probability” is that, “sooner rather than later,” Memphis will take over the fire services and the sheriff’s office will take over the Memphis police services.

The mayor said the “next player in this mix” is Public Chapter 1101, a 20-year law passed by the Tennessee General Assembly in 1998 that allows cities to have Reserve Annexation Areas.

“So, in 2018, it goes away, unless someone can manage to extend it,” she noted. “I don’t see that happening, unless the city of Memphis surrenders its Charter before then.”

Citing an ordinance in Franklin County that describes Rural Residential zoning, Carter said Millington City Attorney Barbara Lapides is attempting to “mesh” that description with the city’s Agricultural zoning designation.

“If you’re zoned Rural Residential, you keep it in perpetuity,” she said. “Hunting will be allowed, as long as it doesn’t endanger life, limb, property or livestock.”

Shortly after the 1990 U.S. Census report was issued, Carter said, it became apparent that Millington had two choices regarding sanitation. (1) It could either increase the property tax rate or (2) charge a sanitation fee.

The Census revealed that 65 percent of Millington residents occupied rental property, and the city’s Sanitation Department said they produced more garbage than home owners did. So, Millington established a sanitation fee that has been increased and decreased over the years. During the past year, Carter said, garbage pickup has been reduced to once a week in an effort to get the sanitation fee back down to approximately $15 a month.

“We couldn’t do it this year,” she acknowledged, “because we still have a deficit for equipment that we lost in the flood. And that deficit just needed to be paid off. So, next year, I feel relatively certain that we’ll see a further reduction in the cost of sanitation.”

Noting that the city is currently ordering garbage carts for the Lucy area, Carter said if the  residents vote for annexation, sanitation services will begin in the community in March 2013.

She also said they will be allowed to use the North Shelby Landfill without charge.

Because people who occupy rental property “historically” own more vehicles, Carter said Millington began charging license plate fees.

“That’s to make the user help bear the cost,” she noted. “If we didn’t do that, property taxes would be high.”

If Lucy residents vote to be annexed, Carter said their fire fees will “go away,” because the Millington Fire Department will provide that service as part of their taxes.

A $2.50 monthly storm water fee is mandated by the state, she said, based on the amount of ground Millington has vs. the number of paved streets.

“Water services out here will continue to be provided by MLG&W,” she noted. “Within four years, we will be taking over all the sewer lines.”

Expressing concern that Lucy residents might lose control of their “destiny,” Carter said this is the first time in the history of Shelby County that a community has been given the opportunity to determine whether it wants to become part of another city.

“We really want you,” she concluded. “It’s not going to make us money. We might break even in a little while. But we really want you to be a part of the makeup of our city that governs you, rather than having people in Memphis govern you.”

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