At a press conference at city hall, Wharton tried to slow down a story that went national on Wednesday, giving Memphis more "troubled city" publicity.
“There will be no reason out of (City Hall) for schools not to open on time and for teachers not to report on time.”
He added, “I am optimistic that we will work out terms that are reasonable.”
The mayor put the schools situation in the context of the 4.6 percent pay cuts in this budget year for police and firemen and other city employees in order to "dispel the notion that we had money and went somewhere else with it.” The city, he said, can only pass along the money after it is collected from taxpayer payments. The school board pegged the due bill at $55 million. But Wharton and City Council chairman Myron Lowery, vowing to do a better job telling their story, produced handouts showing that MCS has gotten $171.7 million from the city in operating funds since July, 2008.
Asked if he was surprised by school board action Tuesday night, the mayor paused several seconds before answering, “No. No I was not. Did I like it? No.”
Asked why school board would consider a late start for school when the amount at issue is about 5 percent of its budget and it is standard procedure to give the school system the funds after the city collects them from taxpayers (who have until August 31 to pay their taxes), Wharton said, “That deserves a deeper inquiry.”