• Concerned Citizens of Lakeland TN

What Will It Cost to Operate Lakeland Prep?

Can a small school system really have it all?
The School Board has repeatedly assured us that we can have it all - a small 6-12 school that offers everything we have now with Arlington Community Schools. Many parents were worried that we would lose some or all of the following:

  • Excellent sport teams
  • Clubs and Social Groups
  • Band
  • AP and Special Ed classes
  • Dual Enrollment

To answer these questions, the original PowerPoint presentation1 for the new school was changed several times adding references to Alcoa and Greeneville Community Schools. In fact, they now dedicate 17% of their presentation to talking about these other school systems! These are small, high-performing schools that the School Board uses as models for what they say we can be.

They also reference St. George’s and Briarcrest on the “FAQ” section of the Lakeland school website. Both of these are also small schools with excellent records.

 

What do these schools spend per pupil?
Alcoa and Greeneville school systems are also mentioned in the SES Feasibility Study2 that Lakeland bought when exploring the prospect of our own school system. Here’s what they spend per pupil:

School

Number of Students

Total Per Pupil Expenditures

Alcoa

1,757

$10,1282

Greeneville

2,786

$10,2372

Briarcrest

1,600

$12,895 (6-8)
$14,295 (9-12)

St. George’s

1,200

$18,470

If we want the amenities these schools have, it’s only logical to assume it will cost us an equivalent amount to operate a similar small, high-performing school system.

 

What does Lakeland spend per pupil?
According to the School Board1 these are the funding sources here in Lakeland for education:

Funding Source

Per Pupil Expenditures

State and County

$8,000

Lakeland

$310

Total Per Pupil Expenditures

$8,310 

 

What will it cost us to be like Alcoa and Greeneville?
Obviously it costs a lot more to operate a middle and high school than just an elementary school. Both Alcoa and Greeneville have operated their systems for decades, so it’s safe to assume they are operating their schools as efficiently as possible.

What’s the difference between what they spend per pupil and what we currently spend? Using an average of Alcoa and Greeneville per pupil costs (average = $10,182):

                        Difference = $10,182 - $8,310
                        Difference = $1,872 per pupil

Operating costs for the schools in excess of the State, County and City ($.15/100 property tax) funding will come from the City’s General fund. From the School Board PowerPoint, there are 2,169 total Lakeland students. To spend the same as the schools they use as examples, this means the City would have to come up with:

                          Additional School Funds required= (2,169 pupils)($1,872/pupil)
                   Additional School Funds required= $4,060,368

 

Can We Afford To Operate Lakeland Prep as Proposed?
It’s critical to understand that if you promise to deliver what Alcoa and Greeneville schools have, you are going to have to pay for it. Fleming’s costs more than McDonald's for a reason, not because Fleming’s simply decides to charge more.

There is no free lunch. To make up this shortfall we cannot raise sales taxes any more, they have already been raised to the maximum allowed by law. We would need another property tax increase of $1.32/100 to cover this large a shortfall in operations! Also, remember that the recent tax increase does not cover but about ½ the stated cost of the $50,000,000 bond. That shortfall will also have to be made up from the City’s General Fund.

Sprouts, LA Fitness, or any other major retailer is only brining in a small pittance of this shortfall. The balance will HAVE to be made up on the BOC’s personal piggybank - our property taxes.  The ballot itself spells out exactly what will happen if they are wrong - "unlimited ad valorem taxes".  They can simply raise property taxes anytime they need more money and we are not allowed by State law to vote on the increases.

This plan is a fiscally dangerous, shortsighted and unnecessary! Vote ‘No’ on the bond and force the School Board to go back to the drawing board.

[1] http://lakelandk12.org/res/pdf/Lakeland-Prep-for-Town-Hall.pdf
[2] https://www.memphisdailynews.com/Editorial_Images/12933.pdf

 

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