Moving Lakeland Forward
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Lakeland historically chooses to complete school system
June 21, 2019 Lakeland, TN On one of the most significant days in the history of the city of Lakeland a final path to the completion of an autonomous, City controlled school system has been laid. On May 28, 2019 a unanimous vote by the Lakeland Board of Commissioners approved a resolution to borrow $62 million in USDA loan funds. This amount allows Lakeland to commit $40 million to fund Lakeland Preparatory High School with little, to possibly no, tax increase to its citizens. 5:00pm, June 20 marked the deadline for a petition to be filed to call for a referendum on the funding mechanism. With none filed, residents can now begin to bridge the bitter divide that has plagued this community for nearly two decades and Lakeland will no longer be the only Shelby County municipality without a K through 12 school system. Commissioner Wesley Wright had the following to say:
“We are definitely pleased to see this moving forward and all that the USDA financing entails. ALL citizens will reap the benefits of a high school, a budget with greater latitude for infrastructure and get much needed projects accomplished. Our children will see the fruits of our labor most of all and Lakeland will continue its course of becoming an upscale, beautiful and unique place to call home.”
The issue of schools in Lakeland has divided the city since 2001 when Shelby County Schools decided to build a new middle and high school in Arlington after Lakeland leaders made the building of Lakeland Elementary School difficult. In 2012, citizens voted to create Lakeland School System despite former Mayor Jim Bomprezzi leading a campaign for Lakeland to remain with Memphis. 2014 saw the Lakeland School Board advise the Board of Commissioners to build both a middle and high school following severe overcrowding at Arlington Middle and a close to capacity Arlington High. The price tag for both buildings was $50 million. A 2015 bond was rejected by voters when citizens were falsely led to believe that the vote was against a tax increase. In 2017, the Industrial Development Board and Board of Commissioners voted unanimously use an Industrial Revenue Bond Program to issue a 30 year bond for a high school with no tax increase. A lawsuit was filed by Lille and Cary Melton and 9 other citizens to stop the building of the school. That lawsuit was dismissed and the dismissal upheld by the Jackson, TN Court of Appeals in early June 2019. Currently Lakeland high school students attend Arlington High School through an interlocal agreement. It is hoped that funds will be made available to the city by September 2019 to begin construction on Lakeland Prep.
The Moving Lakeland Forward PAC recognize and thank the Commissioners that have finally brought this issue to a close. Mayor Mike Cunningham has come to understand that education should be a cornerstone of Lakeland’s future and joined the long time efforts of current Commissioners Josh Roman, Wesley Wright and Michelle Dial, as well as current and former School Board members Kevin Floyd, Geoff Hicks, Laura Harrison, Teresa Henry and Deborah Thomas. Those and former Mayor Wyatt Bunker and current School Superintendent Dr. Ted Horrell have continuously fought for the future of the City’s residents. Though disagreements remain about Lakeland’s path of progress, the members of Moving Lakeland Forward hope this victory will prove that working together will lead the City to be a beacon for Shelby County and all of West Tennessee for generations to come.
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