CMS Bond Referendum Controversy

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Two groups are coming out against the Charlotte - Mecklenburg schools (CMS) $290 million bond referendum.  The bonds will pay for new schools and school improvements.

The groups SPARK (Strategic Partners for Accountability and Reform of Key Educational Performances) and SMART (South Mecklenburg Alliance of Responsible Taxpayers) want county leaders to defer the bond vote.  If that doesn't happen, they want voters to vote No.

"We are saying use some common sense," SPARK leader Tom Davis said. "Figure out how we can do this better."

Davis is circulating a position paper with reasons why people should vote no on the bond.  His first concern is he believes taxes may go up because of the bond referendum.  The ballot reads "a tax to be levied for the payment."

"It's misleading to say no tax increase and vote for this," Davis said.  "There's no such thing as free bonds and they need to be honest when they start promoting this."

CMS said no tax increase because of bonds. Natalie English from Charlotte Chamber of Commerce explains the language on the ballot.

"Taxes can go up in the future," English said. "But not because of this debt. These bonds will be paid with the existing tax rate in Mecklenburg county."

Davis is also concerned about new schools before teacher pay raises.  He believes it's unfair county commissioners approved $290 million for new schools and not approve money for teacher raises.

"The county needs to reprioritize how they give funds to CMS," Davis said. "Out of that prioritization, they need to set aside money like they did a year ago. The county designated that they will get a teacher pay raise."

Another argument, Davis is unclear if the new schools the bonds will build will be needed.  He says the popularity of choice is taking over North Carolina.  Parents are choosing charter schools, private schools and home schooling for their children. The new schools come on board 4-6 years from now.

"You can build that building," Davis said. "And promise everybody and four years out, and by the time they get there, the parents have made the exit and they have gone to something else."

English disagrees.

"If we say no to these bonds," English said. "That means we are not waiting 4-6 years for relief, we are waiting 6-10 years for relief."

The Chamber is raising about $300,000 to get the bond passed.  Davis said he is not raising any money. He will just use word of mouth to get voters to see things his way.

Voters head to the polls in November.

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