Some of you no doubt wonder what's going on with yesterday's blog on the fiesty email exchange between Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board member Trent Merchant and Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James. About the time that readers were getting interested and weighing in, comments shut down, then the blog itself disappeared.
No, we didn't censor the item. There have been massive problems at blogger.com that started late yesterday afternoon and are just getting resolved. The site status report promises that yesterday's blogs will reappear at some point. (Update: the original blog has been restored without comments; I hope those will be recovered, too.) For now, here's the background on the issues that sparked the exchange.
And here are the emails, with a response by James that landed in my inbox shortly after blogger.com shut down. -- Ann Doss Helms
From: Bill James [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 11:44 AM
To: Trent Merchant
Subject: CMS nightmare tax increase
CMS Nightmare tax increase
5-4 school board vote would force tax increases on 144,000 additional Meck citizens
Citizens already receiving tax increase at 'revenue neutral' will be hammered harder
CMS district 6 rep Tim Morgan is swing vote for tax increase
District 6 receives most tax increases of all County Commission districts
For some time, there has been a push to 'leave the tax rate the same' at 83.87 cents).
Chairman Roberts and other D's have pushed for it but for the most part there has not been any hard evidence of the pain it would inflict on citizens here in Mecklenburg.
Yesterday, at my request from several months back, County staff outlined how many people would be hammered if the tax rate stayed the same (sometimes called 'rate' neutral).
To begin with, even at 'revenue neutral' 157,966 households would have a tax increase ('revenue neutral' is dropping the rate to 78.83 cents). I think that rate is too high and believe we need a 'revenue negative budget'.
As bad as raising taxes on 157,966 households (630,000 people approx), IF the rate stayed the same (at 83.87 cents) an additional 36,128 households (aboutr 144,000 more people) would receive a tax increase.
On top of that, the folks who received a 'moderate' tax increase (if there is such an animal) at 'revenue neutral' would be hammered into Mecklenburg's red clay dirt.
A 5% tax hike would turn into a 27% tax hike. If at revenue neutral your tax hike is already 30%.... well, you can do the math.
It would be brutal. Revenue Neutral is already a brutal tax increase which is why I believe the Commission needs a revenue negative budget to lower the extreme tax increases within that pool of 157,966 households (630,000 people).
I am still waiting on that report to come in.
The school board voted to ask for $50 million with the District 6 Republican Tim Morgan (brother of Charlotte Chamber head honcho Bob Morgan) casting the deciding vote for this tsunami of a tax increase.
I note that in terms of the number households with a tax increase by District the order is (at revenue neutral):
District 6 38,074 REPUBLICAN
District 5 36,599 REPUBLICAN
District 1 34,813 REPUBLICAN
District 2 17,594 DEMOCRAT
District 3 15,909 DEMOCRAT
District 4 14,953 DEMOCRAT
It makes me wonder why the Republican from District 6 (which already will have the MOST tax increases in the whole county) would vote to make the matter worse for those in his district when almost all of the money raised by giving CMS $50 million more would benefit people in other districts.
There will be those that say he is looking at the bigger picture or helping out the less fortunate. All good qualities but in the end I think it is because the Chamber wants the increase.
Ultimately, Mecklenburg County citizens can not afford what Tim Morgan, the CMS school board majority and the power elite in Charlotte are dishing out.
If you sit on your hands next week at the public hearing (19th) don't be surprised if your property taxes go up 50%.
The link below is a PDF posted on my web site of the info from the County.
From: Trent Merchant
Sent: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 10:38 PM
To: email@example.com; Tim Morgan
Cc: Eric C. Davis; firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: RE: CMS nightmare tax increase
Bill - I want to thank you for your hard work and for yet another installment of your hard-hitting analyses on vital topics via e-blast.
And thank you for reminding me to focus on those things that are most dangerous to my quality of life, rather than simply enjoying said quality of life. Based on your previous missives, I have spent many hours in recent years watching my back, lest African-Americans emerging from the depths of the moral sewer might try to harm me - and watching my backside when I take my children to local parks, certain that I will accosted by marauding packs of gays.
Now I realize that our greatest threat has been right under our noses all along - and its name is Tim Morgan. To think that I believed all of his corn-pone talk about fishing, camping, Boy Scouts, his faith, and his children... Morgan the Megalomaniac has deceived us all as he has found a way to single-handedly raise my taxes, despite the fact that the School Board has no taxing authority. How dare he!
My feeble memory of last night's meeting was that, after 7 months of discussion, a majority of the board voted on an initial budget request to reduce overall funding to CMS by about $64 million. And I could have sworn that when he made the budget motion, Tim Morgan specifically called on state legislators to do their part in protecting funding for public education. And I thought that when he called on the county to restore a significant amount of funding, he was thinking about the schools in the district that you share with him - you know the one where class sizes are already large and will get even larger next year - where your constituents will lose 2/3 of the elementary teaching assistants, many of whom have masters degrees, who have all the qualifications to be teachers except for formal certification - and where 1 key staff member will be cut from every school.
But after reading your clarifying missive, I realize that everything was up in the air until Tim cast his dramatic vote. And I see that Tim has been little more than a sinister puppet controlled by elitists like his big brother. How could I have missed all the signs of the intra-family psychological beat-down that has surely been decades in the making? When Bob Morgan went to head the Gastonia Chamber of Commerce some years ago, we should have recognized that he was going big-time on us... why didn't you warn us then, Bill?
Bill - I understand that before becoming a full-time local politician whose livelihood depends on being re-elected every 2 years, you were a CPA with a reputable firm - so maybe you can help me with a potential cash flow problem that I see developing at home. The recent reval increased the tax value of my modest middle class home by 36%. If the County Commission leaves the tax rate the same, I will pay $108.86 more per year in property taxes than I would if you went to a revenue neutral rate - that is more than $9.07 per month! Sir, this is an outrage! How will we make ends meet in my home? I understand that my children and their peers are important, and that strong public schools lead to a more viable workforce, stronger tax base, and lower crime rate over time - but at what cost? Surely not $108.86.
I look forward to your continuing insight on this and related matters.
And if you do not have insight to share, I remain confident that you will continue to weigh in on other topics on which you feel the urge to incite and inflame. We are all counting on you.
In humble gratitude,
CMS Board of Education, At Large
From: William F. James, Jr [
Sent: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 10:52 PM
To: 'Trent Merchant'; 'Tim Morgan'
Cc: 'Eric C. Davis'; 'email@example.com'; 'Don Reid'; 'firstname.lastname@example.org'; 'Jeff Taylor'; mark pellin; Dan Bishop
Subject: RE: CMS nightmare tax increase
I think if the guy representing the folks bearing the brunt of most of the tax increases in Mecklenburg wants to vote for that tax increase it is between him and the voters. Who am I to get in the middle of that except to point out that it occurred and he was the lone Republican doing so.
As for your $108.86 potential tax increase - glad you think it is paltry.
I wonder if the public agrees. Using your logic all 194,000 should be pleased with your decision last night.
I got a call from someone in Plaza-Midwood. They had a 117% increase in the value of their house. They are not the only ones.
I think your deficit problem is not with your cash flow.
Tim can defend himself even if his vote isn't particularly defensible.