Nearly $5 Million "Sale" of Buildings to Arlington, Lakeland Could Lead to End of School Litigation

Arlington and Lakeland ready to sign off on OPEB-linked indirect purchases of school properties from SCS district; other suburbs said ready to make similar deals,as SCS board agrees.

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Lawyers gather as County Commission prepares for executive session on settling school litigation. From left: Chris Patterson, representing Lakeland; Charles Perkins, representing Arlington; Lori Patterson (no relation to Chris), special attorney for the Shelby County Commission; and Kelly Rayne, Shelby County Attorney
  • JB
  • Lawyers gather as County Commission prepares for executive session on settling school litigation. From left: Chris Patterson, representing Lakeland; Charles Perkins, representing Arlington; Lori Patterson (no relation to Chris), special attorney for the Shelby County Commission; and Kelly Rayne, Shelby County Attorney
The dominoes have started falling: That was the message that emerged from Monday’s meeting of the Shelby County Commission. At the heel of the meeting (procedural jargon for holding this or that piece of business untl the very end), the Commission adjourned for an executive session with attorney Lori Patterson.

When it ended, enough was revealed by Chairman James Harvey and other members to indicate that two of the six suburban municipalities that have been on the other end of litigation brought by the Commission — Arlington and Lakeland — were ready to reach agreement with the Commission on terms that will be brought before the unified Shelby County Schools board at its scheduled Tuesday night work session.

Though the chapter and verse of the agreement were to be withheld until a special called meeting of the unified Shelby County Schools board Tuesday night, it was learned, from several sources familiar with negotiations, that the two municipalities would accept financial terms involving direct purchase of school properties within their geographic jurisdictions and that the prices of the properties would be considerably higher than token ones.

The price tags, keyed to number of buildings and cost per square foot, were almost $4 million for Arlington and nearly $1 million for Lakeland.

Specifically, Arlington would be paying the unified Shelby County Schools district the amount of $333,333.00 annually for 12 years. The payments for Lakeland will be $56,337 annually, also for 12 years.

For a variety of reasons, both political and legalistic, the agreements with Arlington and Lakeland are couched not as property sales per se but as transfers of property in a framework that includes payments by the municipalities to compensate SSC for pension liabilities and long-term costs pertaiing to OPEBS (Other Post-Employment Benefits).

Additional protocols in the agreements provide for the transferred properties to revert to SCS in the event of any irregularity in compliance with the proposed terms or direct breach of them.

Indications are that Millington officials would soon be accepting similar propositions — probably this week — and that Bartlett and Collierville would not be far behind (although some wrinkles still need to be ironed out in all these cases).

The template for an agreement differs from the 40-year leasing arrangements proposed two weeks ago by superintendent Dorsey Hopson of the unified SCS district, but the Board, which was scheduled to take up these first agreements at a special called meeting at 9 p.m. Tuesday, was expected to find the revised terms amenable.

Should these agreements indeed be concluded with five of the municipalities, only Germantown would find itself still in litigation. The city’s officials remain aggrieved by attendance zones proposed by Hopson for the unified county system that include three Germantown schools — Germantown High School, Germantown Middle School, and Gerrmantown Elementary.

Although County Commissioner Chris Thomas said Monday he would defer presenting a motion for full and complete discontinuation of the Commission’s lawsuit, pending events of the next two weeks, members of the Commission majority who have supported the litigation indicate they are not prepared to give it up so long as Germantown holds out.

The Commission was scheduled to hold a special meeting Thursday to consider further action so long as copies of the suggested agreement were in its possession as of noon Tuesday. (That was a condition insisted on by Commissioner Heidi Shafer.) Friday was set aside as a contingency date in case there was a delay in disseminating copies of the proposed agreement.

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