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Ordinance re-schedules school district referendum on July 16

By Bill ShortFlag City Logo

The Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen passed an ordinance on final reading this week that re-schedules a municipal school district referendum on July 16.
Board members took the action Monday night during a special called meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Mike Caruthers and seconded by Alderman Frankie Dakin. The motion was approved by six affirmative votes, with Alderman Chris Ford absent.
The ordinance was passed on first reading at the board’s May 6 regular monthly meeting and on second reading two days later at a special called meeting.
It adds a Chapter 5 to Title 1 of the Code of Ordinances to authorize the creation and funding of a municipal school district and to submit the ordinance to Millington residents in the referendum.
The board also passed separate ordinances on final reading Monday night revoking two ordinances approved at a May 29, 2012 special called meeting that authorized a school district and school board for Millington.
City Attorney Charles Perkins had said the previous ordinances should be revoked to remove “any other challenge” prior to passing the new ordinance.
If a majority of Millington’s residents approve the July referendum, Perkins has said the board must pass an ordinance in August that schedules a new school board election. He believes that election could be conducted on or around Nov. 7.
Caruthers has noted that the school board would submit a proposed budget to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, which would be expected to fund it. Perkins has said the “level” at which the city can fund the school board’s budget will be determined by the amount of local sales tax revenue generated.
“Roughly, 90 percent of the budget comes from the state,” he told the board members. “The county pretty much provides the rest, except for the small part that you’re providing.”
During a public hearing conducted shortly before the vote, Patricia Bryant of 6856 Kay Cove said she still believes it is the “wrong time” to create a school system. If a majority of Millington residents approve the referendum, she said the city will be sued and will have to defend itself.
Noting that the unified school district will be operating Millington’s schools for another year,
Bryant recommended that the board wait for the other suburban municipalities to conduct their vote, “be sued” and settle their lawsuits before determining whether a school district will work here.
“We can do this vote next year or the year after, depending on how long these lawsuits take,” she contended. “But it is ridiculous to expend this kind of money now, not knowing whether you’re going to be able to have a school district.”
Bryant acknowledged that the board wants to use the half-cent sales tax increase to help fund the school district.
“But if you’ll wait a year, that sales tax will be even more,” she concluded. “And you can make some better judgments about this at that time.”
Alderman Bethany Huffman told Bryant that the ordinance merely authorizes Millington residents to express their opinion, just like she had. Depending on the referendum result, she said the board will either move forward with creating a school district or abandon the plan.
When Bryant noted that the board will still have to spend “several thousand dollars” to conduct that vote, Alderman Hank Hawkins said it will be scheduled on the same date as the other municipalities to “share the cost.”
Elizabeth Gallup of 4892 Quay Hill Drive said she understands the wisdom of trying to save money. But she also believes that, if the board lets this opportunity pass by, it might not regain the “momentum” to create a school district.
“I think we need to go ahead with the vote,” she concluded. “If the people approve it, we need to go ahead for the schools, because it’s the best thing for our children, No. 1, and for our community, No. 2.”
When Mayor Terry Jones expressed uncertainty about what lawsuits are pending, Perkins said Millington is already in the “equal protection” suit, which he believes the judge will “continue to shepherd.” Noting that meetings are scheduled today among the lawyers to determine whether a settlement can be reached, Perkins said he will be there representing the board.
Regarding the equal protection lawsuit, the city attorney said Millington is probably in a stronger position than any of the other suburban municipalities.
“We shouldn’t even be included in that lawsuit at all,” Caruthers said.
“Maybe not,” Perkins responded.
“We should be able to get out of that,” Caruthers added.
Perkins said he believes Millington is in a “pretty good position.”
“Your sales tax revenues are substantial,” he concluded. “It looks to me like, if things continue the way they’re going, you’ll be able to meet your required contribution to the school system out of the sales tax and more, too.”

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