CPCC says sales tax referendum will help with staff shortages

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A shortage of counselors at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) is causing some delays.

It now takes about two weeks for students to see a counselor. Once a student makes an appointment and arrives at CPCC, it then takes a student up to an hour to see the counselor. Students are reacting to this wait.

"For other people," CPCC student Matthew Withrow said, "it might be more of an inconvenience."

CPCC has one counselor for every 1900 students. School officials hope a sales tax referendum, that voters will have a say on, in November will help hire more counselors. Students believe more counselors are needed to help them survive.

"Especially with half of the colleges growing," Withrow said, "there's definitely been an influx of people going back to school since the economy went down."

Voters will decide if the sales tax should increase by 25 cents. That would take the county's tax rate to 7.5%. If approved, portions of the sales tax referendum would go to CPCC. The rest would be divided amongst Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District, Mecklenburg County libraries, and the Arts and Science Council. CPCC would get about $2.5 million if approved. That money would hire more counselors.

"Many of our students," CPCC Assistant Vice President of Student Success Services Rita Dawkins said, "need assistance. We want to provide that assistance so they can be successful to graduate to complete their goal."

CPCC also says it would use the money to hire nursing teachers, IT specialists and a qualified expert in sign language. The shortages have forced the college to cancel some classes.

"We haven't been able to offer as many classes in some areas as we like to, simply because we don't have the faculty to provide that," CPCC Spokesman Jeff Lowrance said.

State Senator Joel Ford disagrees with the tax referendum. He believes the state should fully support the community college. The politician argues the tax referendum is a double tax for voters. "You are asking the citizens of Mecklenburg County to pay twice. We already pay with our state tax and now you are asking the citizens to pay again with sales tax dollars," Senator Ford states.

CPCC says in 2006, 60% of its budget came from the state, now that number has shrunk to 40%.

Voters head to the polls Nov. 4.