Mecklenburg County Commissioners share thoughts on CMS budget request ahead of presentation next week

CMS is requesting $40 million more than it received last year
One week from now, the Board of Education will present how much it says it needs to the board of county commissioners.
Published: May. 3, 2022 at 9:37 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - It’s budget season again for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

The Board of Education unanimously approved its $2.1 billion budget for the 2022-2023 school year on April 26.

“For too long, governing bodies have argued about budgets as if they are only numbers on a page, but a thoughtful budget is more than that,” Board Chair Elyse Dashew said. “Each number in the budget represents our assessment of the needs of our students and how best to meet those needs. It is our responsibility to ensure the children of Mecklenburg County have access to a sound basic education. This is only possible with adequate funding, strategically aligned and thoughtfully deployed, as laid out in the budget we voted on tonight,”

The 2022-2023 budget will be presented to the Mecklenburg Board of County of Commissioners on May 10.

Related: CMS board votes to approve $2.1B budget for 2022-23 school year

Last summer, both boards spent weeks in a budget battle after commissioners threatened to withhold $56 million.

The boards came to an agreement in July 2021. Previously, the county was withholding $56 million from the school district, demanding the district put out a plan on closing learning gaps.

Related: Mecklenburg commissioners, CMS resolve dispute, reach agreement providing more than $60M to school district

The Board of Education published its 2024 Strategic Plan in 2019. It includes multiple goals and strategies to address learning, retention, and the achievement gap.

District 2 County Commissioner Vilma Leake was in favor of withholding the $56 million last year and says she’s still not satisfied with CMS.

“Money is not the answer, what I’m waiting for is to see how they’re spending the money,” Leake said.

One of the biggest differences between last year’s and this year’s proposed budgets - is roughly $15 million more for investing in employees which include raises for teachers and increasing the starting pay for teacher assistants.

Leake says she supports paying teachers more money but wants to see more results.

“Teacher pay, yes, if teachers are producing and I always support teachers, but I have a real concern when you just ask for money and you’re not being able to produce as it relates to the quality education for our children,” Leake said.

Other investments include more money for charter school student growth, two new schools, program expansions, and new initiatives.

District 5 Commissioner Laura Meier believes the outcomes are worth the investment.

“Forty million dollars yes, that is a lot of money I agree that’s a lot of money, but when you break it down it’s for teachers and it’s for the students and it’s going to affect them directly,” Meier said.

As recently as last summer, the Board of Education hosted several student-outcome-focused governance workshops on a variety of topics including graduation rates, advanced placement class enrollment, and literacy.

“I feel like they are showing that they are doing something,” Meier said.

As the county awaits the budget presentation – Meier says she hopes the process goes smoothly, especially since state law ultimately requires them to award CMS the money anyway.

State Law 115C-431 is the procedure for resolution of disputes between the board of education and board of county commissioners.

“We can’t go through that again of what we went through last year. There’s no way we can do that. For one thing, it was proven we can’t withhold money from them,” Meier said.

Though it sounds like Leake is prepared for the possibility of another battle.

“That had never happened in the history of this county and it may happen again,” Leake said.

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