They can hear details and give feedback about the proposed $50 million bond to build a combined middle and high school facility with the working name of “Lakeland Prep.”
At the Aug. 7 city board meeting, superintendent Ted Horrell outlined the proposal for building Lakeland Prep. Then at the Aug. 11 Lakeland School System board meeting, school board members listed opportunities for the public to participate in the decision:
- 5:30 p.m. Aug. 14, city board meeting at Lakeland City Hall; will include first reading of the ordinance to fund the proposed new school
- 6 p.m. Aug. 19, joint town hall meeting of the school and city boards at the Lakeland Elementary School cafeteria
- 7 p.m. Sept. 8, school board meeting at Lakeland City Hall
- 5:30 p.m. Sept. 16, city board meeting at Lakeland Hall; will include a public hearing and the second and final reading of the ordinance to fund the proposed new school. (The Tuesday meeting is a one-time change from the city board’s usual second Thursday schedule for business meetings).
“That’s one of the things that we want to stress, and the mayor and Board of Commissioners have expressed this as well,” school board chairman Kevin Floyd said Monday night. “This isn’t something that we’re trying to get through quickly. This is something we want to get input on from the community so that everybody can make the best decision possible. It’s a $50 million investment in our city, probably the largest investment that’s ever been made. It deserves a good, fair discussion, and I believe that we’ll have that.”
The proposal includes:
- Purchasing 70 acres of land, $2.1 million
- Constructing a 262,000-square-foot facility at a cost of $130 per square foot, $34.1 million
- Paying architectural and engineering fees, $2 million
- Purchasing fixtures, furnishings and equipment, $6.8 million
- Constructing athletic facilities, $3 million
- Paying other costs, $2 million
The proposed 30-year bond represents a $0.55 special property tax increase to fund the land purchase, design and building of Lakeland Prep over five years. It also uses conservative assumptions of no new grocery store or outlet mall generating revenue in the city.
The school district currently has just over $1.5 million in reserve and no way to fund this building without a property tax increase, Horrell said.
The current $0.85 Lakeland property tax is not reserved just for the Lakeland School System: $0.15 goes to the school district for operations, per state law; $0.10 goes to the school reserves for capital projects; and $0.60 goes to the city of Lakeland for its capital projects.
Other local municipalities have significantly higher property taxes per $100 of a property’s assessed values (although many offer municipal services, such as police and fire service, that Lakeland currently does not):
- Arlington, $1.15
- Bartlett, $1.62
- Collierville, $1.53
- Germantown, $1.93
- Lakeland, $0.85 (proposal would change this to $1.40, still the second lowest)
- Millington, $1.53
The new Lakeland School System is the result of a three-year effort to have community schools with local control, Horrell said. Partnering with other districts now helps to educate Lakeland students in grades 6-12 because Lakeland is the only Shelby County school district that has just an elementary school. But that is not a long-term solution.
“We won’t truly have local control or truly have community schools for all of our students until we have a K-12 system,” Horrell said.
Currently, Arlington Community Schools and Bartlett City Schools help to educate Lakeland students, who attend at these locations:
- Lakeland Elementary, 810 students
- Donelson Elementary, 180 students
- Arlington Middle, 392 students
- Bon Lin Middle, 130 students
- Arlington High, 657 students
However, Arlington itself is growing and may not be able to accommodate Lakeland students beyond the current seven-year agreement of guaranteed placement. Arlington Middle School is currently over capacity already, and Arlington High School is also maxed out.
If Lakeland fails to build and if Arlington continues to grow, the only future option may be to rely on Shelby County Schools, Horrell said.
Horrell also explained that it’s more cost efficient for the Lakeland district to build one shared facility now rather than to build a middle school now and a high school later.
He also listed other reasons to proceed now with the Lakeland Prep project:
- The current interest rates are reasonable and expected to rise.
- Parents are making decisions now about where children will go to school.
- A K-12 system provides stability and guarantees that the district will remain independent.
Written by Carolyn Bahm, Express editor. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.