Thursday, May 19, 2011

Roberts: $40m more to CMS, flat tax rate

Mecklenburg County Commissioners Chair Jennifer Roberts issued a statement late Wednesday saying she wants to keep the same property tax rate next year and send an extra $40 million to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in 2011-12.

Read the full statement, which Roberts sent to the Observer, below.

Roberts said she also wants to give Central Piedmont Community College $2.5 million, and backed a plan to give more to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library to avoid more branch closings.

County Manager Harry Jones unveiled a budget recommendation on Tuesday that would give CMS $26 million more for operations, which is just over half what the school board requested. His plan would lower the tax rate by just over one penny, but most taxpayers would pay more next year because most home values rose in the county's reappraisal. - APRIL BETHEA


MAY 18, 2011

I advocate a County budget that keeps our tax rate where it is (83.87 cents per $100 value) to help close a budget gap created by a severe loss in state education funding. I know this will create a higher tax cost for many in our county because of the recent revaluation, but I simply cannot support cutting 1,000 more teachers from our schools, eroding the academic gains we have made, and setting back our education system by decades. I believe that further cuts to CMS will cost our community more in the long run and it is for this reason that the budget I support is strong in education, including increased support for CMS, CPCC, and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

Even by keeping the current tax rate we cannot fully stave off reductions in teachers and personnel, especially in pre-school, but we can at least bring County funding for CMS back to the level it was in 2008, when the system had 6,000 fewer students.

This is an extraordinary time for our community. We have weathered the worst recession since World War II, and for the past three years have made deep cuts to county government and CMS as well as our nationally known community college, Central Piedmont, and our once nationally known public library system.

In the entire time that I have been a commissioner, the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners has always placed education at the top of its priorities. In every public forum I have participated in this year, our citizens have told me that education is a priority for them as well. This is because education is essential to the future success of our entire community. It prepares workers for those companies that continue to move and expand here; it provides self sufficiency for residents who can support themselves with employment and avoid government assistance; and it provides the very basis of our democracy and our ability to have strong, accountable, and accessible government.

I propose a budget that funds these three elements at the following levels:
  • CMS: $340 million ($40 m increase, $14 million over Manager’s budget)
  • CPCC: $26.4 million ($2.5 m increase, $1 m over Manager’s budget)
  • Libraries: $ 23.4 million ($2.3 m increase, equal to Manager’s budget)

In addition to the rate neutral tax rate, which will bring in almost $14 million over the manager’s recommended budget, there are other adjustments that can be made to support this CMS amount. For example, we could help fund this education budget by waiting at least one more year to restore the 401(k) match for County employees (up to $5 million saved) or by funding County employee raises at 2% instead of 3% ($1 million saved).

We have made steady gains in academic achievement in our school system over the past 3 years, and have reduced the achievement gap at the same time. Yet we risk losing all that and more if we sustain the depth of cuts that CMS faces with level County funding for the next fiscal year, or even with $26 million more as recently recommended by our manager. A strong public education system benefits everyone, and a weak and declining system will hurt everyone, drive away potential employers, and jeopardize our future. I hope my colleagues and this community will stand with me as I support a strong education budget that puts our children and future first.

Jennifer Watson Roberts
Chairman, Mecklenburg County