Language in NC budget could mean more access to money for school districts

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) District leaders have issues with added language in North Carolina's nearly $24 billion proposed budget.

The changed language addresses House Bill 514. That original bill allowed Matthews/Mint Hill to create their own charter school district. The bill allowed the towns to raise taxes to support the charter school district, but there would have to be a referendum first.

The language in the proposed budget now eliminates conducting a referendum and states towns can raise taxes, but the money has to go for a specific purpose and serve the schools in those particular areas. The interesting thing about the language is local school districts in North Carolina or charter schools can have access to additional money.

School districts in North Carolina can ask nearby cities and towns for assistance. This means CMS can request funding from the local jurisdictions like Matthews, Mint Hill, Cornelius, Davidson, Charlotte, Huntersville, and Pineville.

"This bill allows cities to fund schools, which is not currently permissible in North Carolina," CMS Government Relations Coordinator Charles Jeter said. "It's a seismic change in education."

Jeter says getting rid of the referendum to raise taxes was addressed in the new language but claims there are still other problems with the bill before it can pass. House Bill 514 is scheduled to be discussed in Raleigh Wednesday afternoon. Jeter says CMS will continue to fight the bill and prove to lawmakers why it's a bad deal.

"We didn't show all our cards," Jeter said.

The town of Huntersville agreed with House Bill 514. Town commissioners say the bill will give the town options if CMS didn't act on Huntersville concerns. Huntersville Mayor John Aneralla has issues with CMS having the ability to ask Huntersville for money.

"I am not in favor of any other government entity coming to the Town of Huntersville to gain access to our tax coffers," Aneralla said.

Aneralla argues CMS is not lacking and doesn't need extra funding.

"They don't have a revenue problem," the mayor said, "They have a priority of their revenues problem."

CMS leaders say if this part of the budget passes the towns trying to split from the school district to create their own charter school district won't be able to get rid of CMS.

"We warned Huntersville - be careful what you ask for," Jeter said. "Well guess what - now if we need more custodians at North Meck, we can't afford them because we don't have the money. Now the Town of Huntersville can pay for custodians, now the town of Huntersville can pay for school facilities, teacher salaries."

Jeter says he knows several lawmakers who say they are against HB 514 while others believe the bill will go through.

There has been no response from the HB 514 sponsor Rep. Bill Brawley concerning changes to the language addressing the controversial bill.

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