Superintendent presents $1.6 Billion total proposed budget, CMS launches website

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte Mecklenburg School District (CMS) Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox revealed his recommendations for next year's budget.

Wilcox is not calling his total proposed $1.6 billion request a budget but rather a call to action. He says kids need this budget.

CMS launched a budget information website at ourkidsneedus.org to open access to a proposed budget to the community and create opportunities for feedback and questions.

Wilcox is requesting $39.8 million more than last year.  Charlotte's top educator says the money is needed so kids can have safer schools, great educators, strong support and a positive learning spaces.

Wilcox presented the budget at Wednesday night's school board meeting.

School board members praised Wilcox for presenting a comprehensive budget. This is his first CMS budget.

The superintendent is requesting from the county $6.9 million to help supplement teacher pay.  The county gives teachers more for working in Mecklenburg County.

Teachers haven't seen an increase in their county supplement in about six years.  Wilcox says he wished he could have offered more.

"We know they work hard every single day," CMS Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox said. "We know some of our teachers are struggling to make ends meet."

Some teachers say they appreciate being included in the superintendent's budget, but think more is needed to retain and attract effective teachers.

"I think there is a little room to grow and room to increase that to become comparable to other districts our size," Charlotte Mecklenburg Association of Educators Kevin Poirier said. "But of course it's a start."

Also getting a raise could be school board members. It is proposed school board members could get about a $10,000 pay hike.

CMS School Board Chairperson Mary McCray says board members get about $20,000 a year compared to County Commissioners who make roughly $44,000 a year.

McCray believes the pay increase is needed and justified.

"I know to some people it seems unfair, but if you expect good people to serve on this board, and if we want an economically diverse board, we are going to have to increase the pay," CMS School Board Chairperson Mary McCray said.

Wilcox is also recommending $9.2 million to make schools safer. He wants in-classroom cameras and alerts, fencing, hardened doors and additional locks on external doors.

The superintendent also wants $4.4 million to hire 33 elementary school counselors, 17 school social workers, and 10 school psychologists.

The superintendent wants to address the mental stability of students.

"For those kids that are perhaps the most challenging children, and have the greatest challenges, if we are smart about how we assign these - it would be a huge difference for them," Wilcox said.

The superintendent is also recommending millions to hire more police officers, to implement better programs in schools so all students can achieve, to have cultural competency training for 800 educators and hire more English Learner teachers.

Wilcox says he was told by the county manager that the estimated county revenue this year is about $31 million. The ask is nearly $40 million.

"We know there is going to be some tightening and there is going to be some challenges," Wilcox said. "But that is part of this budget making process. I am confident that parts of it will get done. I am not sure we will get it all done."

Wilcox's proposed budget identifies four key areas he wants to address: safe schools, great educators, strong support and positive learning spaces.

All of it has come together to focus community attention on the need for more equity, including in schools, he said. The four areas identified in his budget are expected to improve children's educational experiences and increase access to opportunity.

"Our kids need us," he said. "Our community is at a crossroads today. This budget call to action is a call to choose the best path, the one that will help our kids and strengthen our entire community."

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education will vote on the budget in May. The county will vote on its budget in June.

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