Greensboro, NC (WBTV) - The Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners kicked off their retreat Wednesday in Greensboro. Commissioners will receive presentations on a litany of county services before setting their priorities for the county manager to consider in her budget.
The most passionate voices came during Universal Pre-K discussions, while commissioners also harped on the importance of a vibrant parks system.
New County commissioner Mark Jerrell says there’s one overarching goal.
“The biggest thing I want to get out of here is making sure that we identify our priorities making sure it’s what the communities ask for,” Jerrell said.
County MAnager Dina Diorio said she will be listening closely to commissioners comments.
“For me as manager it’s really important to hear those conversations. It helps me understand what their priorities, are what their policy goals are so I can incorporate that into my recommended budget which will come out in May,” Diorio said.
The most passionate appeal of the day came from county commissioner Vilma Leake regarding Universal Pre-K.
“If we don’t do it today it will never get done,” Leake said.
“We’ve got to have education as a component for babies. Jail is waiting for them.”
The Meck Pre-K program served more than 600 toddlers last year who otherwise would not have had a Pre-K program. The county is seeking $24 million to expand the program to 1,200 kids next year and hoping to keep growing to eventually offer Pre-K to every family.
Commissioners also asked tough questions about the Capital Improvement Projects budget.
There’s nearly $1.3 billion in the budget for capital projects this year with more than 50 percent of that going to Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. Three new schools begin construction this year - Olympic High School, South Meck/Ardrey Kell/Myers Park and West Charlotte High School.
Commissioners Susan Harden and Elaine Powell questioned why the county had not spent the totality of capital improvement budget to date and wondered if anything could be done to accelerate some of the projects to provide more services to residents. As was highlighted in one presentation, Mecklenburg County is one of the fastest growing areas in the country and commissioners want county services to keep pace.
Commissioners asked for a report on properties looking to be purchased for parks, schools and other projects.
On parks commissioners learned that there’s still hundreds of miles and millions of dollars to go to finish the plans for building greenways. Nearly 50 miles have been completed and there’s 215 still planned.
Tomorrow commissioners will get presentations on revaluation and what a neutral tax rate/budget would look like.
WBTV will be in Greensboro tomorrow to cover the second day of the retreat.