As Mecklenburg County commissioners prepare for tonight's budget vote, Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board Chairman Ericka Ellis-Stewart has emailed them a plan for a "three-way partnership" to provide 3 percent raises to CMS employees. She asks commissioners to go back to the plan County Manager Harry Jones presented, which boosts the CMS budget for 2012-13 by about $9 million without putting restrictions on the money. Commissioners voted informally but unanimously last week to approve the total sum Jones recommended but put about $18.5 million into a restricted fund that would be released only for raises.
This proposal can be a bit confusing, especially the reference to a $10 million decrease in the state discretionary cut. As careful readers may decipher, a decrease in a cut equates to an increase in the money CMS planned for when preparing its budget this spring. CMS and the county are waiting to see what state lawmakers approve for education spending.
It's unclear whether this proposal will cause a majority of commissioners to rethink the restricted fund. "I have read it twice and I am still not sure what she is driving at," said Commissioner Bill James, who has long pushed for restricting CMS money.
Here's the email:
From: Ericka Ellis-Stewart [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, June 05, 2012 10:42 AM
To: harold.cogdell@MecklenburgCountyNC.gov; jim.pendergraph@MecklenburgCountyNC.gov; jennifer.roberts@MecklenburgCountyNC.gov; karen.bentley@MecklenburgCountyNC.gov; vilma.leake@MecklenburgCountyNC.gov; george.dunlap@MecklenburgCountyNC.gov; firstname.lastname@example.org; neil.cooksey@MecklenburgCountyNC.gov; Wjames@carolina.rr.com
Cc: Rhonda Lennon; Richard McElrath; Joyce Waddell; Tom Tate; Eric C. Davis; Amelia Stinson-Wesley; Tim Morgan; Mary T. McCray; Hugh E. Hattabaugh; Sheila W. Shirley; George E. Battle; LaTarzja N. Henry
Subject: Open Letter from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education
Over the past few years both of our Boards have had to face difficult, controversial issues. Both of us have had to make decisions we wish we had not had to make. The Board of Education respects your decisions, and we want to thank you for the support you have provided our public school students and staff during these financially challenging times.
Recently, many of us have had the opportunity to discuss with Commissioners our 2012-2013 budget request. We have heard a number of concerns such as, why are we looking to the County to fund raises that are a State responsibility, what are we doing ourselves to fund this increase if it is a high priority, how will we insure that our staff gets this pay increase? Reflecting on these conversations with you, our partners, we realize that we need to clarify our request. We consider our 2012-2013 budget request for additional funding to be a statement of our students’ needs to both the State and County. While by state law the Board of Education is required to make a formal request of the County, it is equally important to communicate that the funding for our students' needs could come from either of our two primary funders. And we have shared this statement of need with members of our State delegation.
More specifically, in providing a modest and well deserved 3% pay increase to our teachers and staff, as well as meeting our other needs, at this juncture we propose a three-way partnership to fund the budget. First, the Board of Education will provide at least $16.4mm through budget reductions already presented in our request. The second component could come from at least a $10mm decrease in the discretionary cut in our State funding, pending action by the Legislature. This assumes the state funding is ongoing, without restrictions that would prevent us from leveraging that funding into a local level salary increase. This funding is far from a certainty. The final component could come from an unrestricted increase in county funding similar to the County Manager’s recommendation in the amount of $9.1mm. This approach enables the State, County, and CMS to share as a team the opportunity to improve our system and allows each partner to support CMS teachers and staff. Should our own cuts plus any additional recurring funds from the State and County exceed what is necessary to provide the 3% increase, we will use those recurring funds in accordance with our budget request which includes adding teachers in our 9th grade classrooms.
Another advantage of this approach is that we are able to avoid further staff reductions resulting in elevated class sizes which negatively impacted our students’ education. This approach will help to restore to some degree the morale of our teachers and staff and with it, provide a better classroom experience for our students.
We would be glad to continue to meet with you and to answer any questions you have about our budget. Again we thank you for your partnership and for supporting CMS students in the past and in the future.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education