Council enters partnership; plan moving to build Madison, JCM

Brandon Shields, Jackson Sun

Jackson-Madison County Schools is getting a new Madison Academic and a new Jackson Central-Merry High School.

The Jackson City Council voted 6-3 to enter the private-public partnership to essentially fund the construction of Madison Academic High School on the campus of the University of Memphis at Lambuth.

David Cisco, Vicky Foote and Randy Wallace were the dissenting votes.

Here’s a look at the directions the meeting took during discussion:

The estimated cost for Madison is $11 million.

  • The vote to decide about the resolution initially had to be taken off the table, and that didn’t receive a unanimous vote among council members. David Cisco was the lone “no” in an 8-1 vote.
  • Jonathan McCoy of Piper Jaffray financial counseling discussed the feasibility and risk of taking on this financial obligation, and it was feasible assuming the tax base does grow according to projections.
  • Councilman David Cisco asked to speak before the vote and essentially said he doesn’t think new buildings are the answer for Jackson-Madison County Schools. But if the City were in the business of funding schools, he’d be all for bringing back discipline into the system and raising teachers’ pay.
  • After Mayor Jerry Gist defined the proposal, including the lines defining the district for the 25 percent enrollment component for Madison and Community Montessori, Randy Wallace motioned to amend the resolution to pay for half of Madison ($5.5 million).
  • JMCSS Superintendent Eric Jones and Hal Crocker, Healthy Community LLC and a coordinator of the partnership, told the Council this amendment would delay the process because the County Commission would have to do another vote to decide about their half. This would put the plan at risk since SunTrust Bank’s available to help with the project’s funding and new market tax credit application deadline is Dec. 31.
  • Councilman Charles Bray stood up and spoke saying they were prepared to vote for the resolution as it was presented in the agenda and not an amendment. “Adding amendments is something we can do every week and never get this done, so we should do what’s right and vote on what we came to vote on,” Bray said.
  • Gist called on University of Memphis President David Rudd to address the Council with perspective from his institution for bringing Madison onto its campus. While he spoke, Councilman Earnest Brooks asked Rudd if there were anything set up to establish inclusiveness for Madison. Rudd committed to inclusiveness for the long-term future.
  • After Brooks discussed the importance of knowing how candidates for the upcoming mayoral election felt about this proposal, Councilman Ross Priddy spoke as a parent and product of the school system saying the Council members have been asked to vote on this resolution, and they should stop the cycle of pushing decisions back and vote on it.
  • The amendment was voted down, 5-4.
  • After that, the original resolution was voted on with the final 6-3 tally.
  • The vote doesn’t officially secure the construction of both schools, as it could take up to the first three months of 2019 before the new market tax credits are approved.

“The City is not in the school business, but we’ve done a lot of things the City didn’t have to do,” Buchanan said. “But we’ve done them because it was right. And today was the right thing to do.”

Editor’s Note: That is all a matter of opinion and that opinion was not unanimous so apparently not everyone thought it was the “right thing to do”.  

So once more the city council caved and voted for allowing a private entity to enter into an agreement without risk and without bids to the provide something that they could have done themselves for less money on property they control. Why is it we keep electing a group of individuals that collectively are driving this city to bankruptcy we will never understand. It will be our own end that we allow this to continue.

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