Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce comes out against CMS' $922 Million Bond Package

LAKE NORMAN, NC (WBTV) - The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce has decided to vote against Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) District's $922 million bond referendum.

Chamber President Bill Russell says this is the first time in recent memory when the Chamber has publicly said "no" to a CMS bond package.

"Quite frankly, it would be a dereliction of our duty to support a bond package that wasn't bringing those resources to north Mecklenburg," Russell said.

The Chamber had an information session about the bonds. People spoke against and in support of it.

CMS School board Vice Chairperson Elyse Dashew spoke for the bonds while the towns of Huntersville and Cornelius wanted the Chamber to join them in voting the bonds down. The argument is that out of the 29 projects the bonds will fund, only two are in the northern part of Mecklenburg County.

"When you feel like you have been short-changed, you've been shortchanged," Russell said.

Russell says the Chamber would have had a different outcome if the bond was larger so it could have included more projects for District One. The Chamber now says  CMS needs to tweak the process when deciding bond projects.

"We were opposed to this method," Russell said. "We don't think it's fair. It certainly should have included schools in Cornelius, Davidson and Huntersville and it didn't."

Bond Campaign Co-Chair Arthur Griffin used to be CMS' school Board Chairperson. He is disappointed in the voters living in the Northern part of the county who are saying no to bonds because not enough projects are coming to their area.

"District One has received its fair share since the year 2000," Bond Campaign Co-Chair Arthur Griffin said. "So far, it has received more than $375 million in bond money - more than any other district in the county."

Griffin added that District One's needs will be met eventually.

"There are other schools that are also not on this bond package," Griffin said. "They will be addressed in the next bond referendum."

CMS School Board members are responding to the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce's decision. School Board Chairperson Mary McCray says people have the right to their opinion, but she is glad all Chambers aren't coming against the bonds.

"I am deeply gratified that our local chamber here in Charlotte saw fit to endorse our bonds and work with along the school district on the bonds - so I say go Charlotte Chamber," McCray said.

CMS School Board Vice Chairperson Elyse Dashew also responding to those who want to vote down the bonds.

"The school bonds focus on where students and teachers have waited the longest," Dashew said. "And with the most critical needs. I understand the frustration of some constituents who feel they don't get enough in this bond package. And I am thankful for the tremendous support we've seen from those who see the value in this investment for the whole community."

Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce won't aggressively advertise to voters to go against the bonds, they will just spread the message to its roughly 1,000 businesses.

"It starts with one voice," Russell said. "And ends up like a wave."

Voters decide on the bonds when they head to the polls November 7.

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