How CMS stands in Mecklenburg County manager's proposed $1.7 billion budget

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio released her proposed $1.7 billion budget Tuesday morning before a packed chamber. It is $25 million more than last year's budget. It also includes a property tax increase of three-fourths of a cent.

This means a for single-family home worth $250,000, a homeowner will pay $18.75 more a year, or $1.50 more a month. The money will go to help fund early childhood education so more disadvantaged kids in the county can start early in their education.

Some county commissioners don't agree with the proposed tax increase.

"I think it can be avoided," County Commissioner Jim Puckett said. "I believe we have to pare down the scope - don't think we need universal Pre-K."

When it comes to funding Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) District - CMS will come up short. Diorio is recommending to give the school district $24.2 million more than it got last year. CMS was requesting nearly $40 million more. CMS wanted more money to make schools safer, hire extra social workers, counselors, and psychologists, and teacher raises.

Diorio did not recommend to give CMS an extra $6.9 million to pay for a seven percent raise in a teacher's supplement.  A supplement is what the county adds to a teacher's paycheck to attract the best to the area. Other North Carolina counties do the same. CMS says that supplement hasn't increased in years.

"We try to give them as much money as possible and we really tried to provide funding for what we thought were the most critical issues for CMS," Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio said.

Many think teacher pay is a critical issue. Local teachers wanted the county to give them a 14 percent raise in their supplement. Diorio thinks teacher pay is not the county's responsibility.

"It's a critical item but the state budget is going to provide teachers with a raise as part of their budget," Diorio said. "So we feel that was covered as part of the state's budget for next year."

Some county commissioners are now thinking about raising the teacher supplement. They want more information from CMS about teacher pay before deciding whether to ignore Diorio's recommendation on that teacher supplement raise.

"There's no reason that I can think of why a teacher in Wake County or in Chapel Hill ought to make more than teachers in Mecklenburg County make." County Commissioner Trevor Fuller said.

Fuller says the manager has done her part. Now it's time for the commissioners to do theirs.

"It's now our job to take this recommended budget, make some additions, some subtractions," Fuller said.

CMS Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox is reacting to the county manager not granting his request of an increase to the teacher supplement. He says the manager had a lot to deal with when creating her budget.  He adds the teacher pay assignment is not over.

"We are going to continue to look after it," CMS Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox said. "We are going to continue to lobby. We are going to continue to put it forward."

Wilcox says he will continue to think about teacher pay but is pleased the manager is recommending to give CMS the $4.7 million to hire more counselors to deal with the emotional and mental health of students.

The money will allow CMS to hire 33 elementary school counselors, 17 school social workers and ten school psychologists. The manager also recommended to give CMS one-time funding of $4.6 million to go to make schools safer. These requests were in response to the Parkland, FL deadly school shooting. CMS did request $9.2 million.

Wilcox knows this is just the manager's budget recommendation and commissioners have final approval, but he is bracing himself he will not get all the district requested.

"Always within big budgets there's an opportunity to go back in and kind of change priorities - we'll do some of that," Wilcox said.

Also in the manager's recommended budget for CMS is $11.8 million to fully fund a three percent state raise for employees who are locally funded from the county, also $3.5 million for increased costs for health insurance and retirement, $3.4 million for charter school enrollment growth and $923,000 for additional facility space.

County Commissioners will hold a public hearing on June 4 at 6 p.m. at the Government Center. Commissioners will conduct a straw vote on where they stand on the budget June 12-13 starting at 9 a.m.

To read the county manager's entire proposed budget click here.

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