Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cogdell offers new Meck budget proposal

Mecklenburg commissioners now have another budget proposal to consider as Democrat Harold Cogdell rolled out his own plan Wednesday for how the county should spend money next year.

His proposal would lower the tax rate to 82.37 cents per $100 of assessed value -- 1.5 cents below the current levy and slightly lower than the one recommended by County Manager Harry Jones.

Meanwhile, Cogdell wants to give $34.4 million in additional money to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, including a $10 million grant to be used specifically for the Bright Beginnings pre-K program. The program could be downsized under the district's budget depending on how much CMS gets from the county and state.

Other commissioners likely will craft their own budget plans in the coming days. Cogdell's appears to be one of at least four currently under consideration -- Jones', as well as one from Democrat and Chair Jennifer Roberts who wants to give CMS an extra $40 million partly by keeping the tax rate.

Meanwhile, board Republicans have long said they would not support a tax rate higher than the revenue-neutral levy of 78.83 cents.

Cogdell shared details of his budget proposal in an email to commissioners, county staff and the Observer. Here is the full text:

"Fellow Commissioners,

Please find attached my proposed county budget for all to consider. This proposed budget is above-revenue neutral and below rate neutral. The property tax rate needed to support this budget is .8237. It provides $34.4M to CMS above last year’s funded amount; maintains funding for the Bright Beginnings program; provides $1M extra to CPCC; reinstates merit pay raises and 401K matches for county employees; and reduces the current tax rate by 1 ½ cents (1/2 cents below what the manager has proposed). Please find attached a line item by line item spreadsheet of the entire county budget with my proposed changes.

Now that all relevant facts have been provided to our Board, I would encourage each of us to do the same with the straw vote spreadsheets provided by county staff. We are past the point of speaking in general terms about budget goals but each of us needs to be very specific about what line items we would fund, reduce or what revenue modifications or projections each of us would change in order to develop a balanced budget.

Please note that I have no intention of supporting either a tax rate neutral or revenue neutral budget. I am inclined to consider how we could identify further sound and thoughtful reductions that could result in an even lower tax rate. I am willing to meet with any Commissioner that is willing to not draw a line in the sand on revenue or rate neutral understanding that both positions border on the extreme.

It is so easy to say to community stakeholders and partners, if I had four more votes I would support your request. In the alternative, it is so easy to say I am only supporting a revenue neutral budget without identifying where reductions would be made. I am confident that we will all be transparent in this process, make clear where each of us stands on the many budget considerations and remain focused on adopting a responsible budget for Mecklenburg County.

The highlights of my proposed budget include the following:

  • 1% increase in sales tax revenue for FY12 above the manager’s recommended amount ($1.2M).
  • $1.6M reduction in CMS operating from the manager’s recommended amount.
  • $10M Grant to CMS to be used exclusively for the Bright Beginnings program. Please note that the $10M for the BB Grant is placed in line item #2 under CMS debt and does not reflect any desire on my part to add $10M to CMS debt service.
  • $1M increase in funding to CPCC above the manager’s recommended amount ($1.2M).
  • $300K reduction in funding to for the ASC Center for Arts & Technology from the manager’s recommended amount.
  • $2M reduction from the overall DSS budget to be determined by the manager’s office which equals a 3.5% departmental reduction. The proposed budget still results in a $400K increase in the DSS budget from FY11.
  • $2M reduction in the recommended OPED funding level.
  • $515K reduction in employee training – almost $1.5M remains in employee training funds.
  • $290K reduction in the Human Services Finance Division that funds 8 instead of 12 new finance positions.
  • $1.75M reduction from the manager’s recommended capital reserve ($8.5M remains in the reserve).
  • $350K reduction from the manager’s recommended technology reserve ($4.4M remains in the reserve).
  • $450K reduction from the manager’s recommended budget to the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office (reductions to be determined at the discretion of the Sheriff). This equates to a ½ of 1% of the departmental budget.
  • $499K of the $1.5M Carolinas Healthcare System Contract for services provided through the Mecklenburg County Health Department.
  • No changes to the manager’s recommended funding level to the PLCMC (Library).

Please note that the above listed modifications are the highlights and is not a comprehensive list of every proposed change to the manger’s recommended budget.

Harold Cogdell, Jr.
Mecklenburg County Commissioner At-Large


Anonymous said...

Pre-K and Bright Beginings. By all means we should throw more money away trying to educate those that don't want to learn.

therestofthestory said...

Interesting proposal. However, BB is not on CMS's priority list that high. Additionally, Dr. Gorman did not put BB (beyond the federal mandate) into his budget proposal saying there was no proof it created any value. Secondly, no one form our county governments have addressed the duplicity of BB, more at 4, success by 6, head start, etc.

Lastly and most importantly, past suggestions by the BOCC on how CMS should spend money has met with furious indignation and chest pumping editorials by the CO daring how a bunch of elected officials can overrule the "educated/elitists" whom we should feel blessed to have as our "public school saviours".

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