Court Delays Could Cost More and Stall School Openings for Suburbs

(Memphis) Tax payers are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to see if they can open municipal schools.

Now it looks like you are going to have to pay even more.

A federal judge delayed the hearing two more weeks after three hours of arguing over a municipal witness.

Both sides agreed to use six maps from Gibson and Carroll counties. 

The only problem, it’s going to take the mapmaker two weeks to create those maps.

Municipal attorneys believe the state law allowing for municipal elections is constitutional, because it also applies to Gibson and Carroll Counties.

They believe the court will see that in census maps.

That’s the one question this entire hearing is trying to answer, and it`s costing a pretty penny.

Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald says they’re in it for the long haul.

“From the beginning we knew this was going to be a long process.  We knew it would be expensive.  We didn`t know how expensive,” said McDonald.

Bartlett is shouldering most of the legal costs for the suburbs because it`s the largest municipality.

They’ve already had to approve $350,000 for legal fees.

County Commissioner Mike Ritz says municipalities have no one to blame for the cost but themselves.

“Quite frankly, if the county school board hadn`t sued the county commission in February of 2011 we wouldn’t be here.  They created us.  It`s their fault,” said Ritz.

“Our citizens told us 80% or greater they want municipal schools and it’s our job as elected officials to find a way to make that happen,” said McDonald.

After all this time and money suburban mayors still don’t know if they will have schools open by August of 2013.

“We may not make 2013, but we’re in this to start municipal schools whether it’s ’13, ’14 or ’15 depending upon where these court cases take us we are moving forward,” said McDonald.

Arlington, along with other municipalities, is still planning on school board elections in November.

“I feel that everyone wants to move forward with what’s best for their children and we need to do what’s best for all children,” said Arlington Mayor Mike Wissman.

Judge Hardy Mays is set to meet with both sides here at the federal court house October 4th when he is expected to accept statements from both sides just one month shy of what`s being billed a desegregation hearing.