CMS $922 million bond campaign kicks off

Updated: Jun. 21, 2017 at 8:06 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The "Vote Yes for Bonds Campaign" kicked off Wednesday at the Chamber of Commerce. The committee is pushing for a $922 million bond referendum for Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District (CMS).

It will be on the ballot in November. If approved it would build ten new schools, make twelve renovations and additions, and replace seven schools.

Campaign Co-Chair Arthur Griffin believes the bond won't be hard to convince voters to say yes to. He says it's about the more than 145,000 CMS students.

"Once you let the public know, understand that those 148,000 reasons for us to be supportive of the bonds and say yes for bonds - I think this community will readily support a bond ballot in November," Griffin said.

CMS School Board chairperson Mary McCray said Wednesday she knows there will be a battle concerning what is the largest bond amount ever in CMS history.

"Some people just don't support bonds," McCray said. "And maybe it's people who don't have children. 'I don't have a stake in this,' but trust me - everyone has a stake in this game."

The campaign plans to use social media, direct mailings, and hiring people during early voting to help get out the vote. Last time the Chamber spent nearly $200,000 to help pass the bonds. There is no word on how much the chamber will spend this time.

CMS incoming superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox believes good information is key to pass the bonds.

"We have to communicate well with our community," Wilcox said. "We have to tell people what it is that stands to be gained when we pass this referendum."

Some voters are still unsure if they will vote for the bond. Parent Judy Mayo still has questions about how the bonds will help her child's school.

"It's hard to vote yes for spending money when we don't know how that money will be used for our school," Mayo said.

Mayo claims she has asked CMS for information but is still waiting.

"It's going to make it difficult to make an informed decision," she said. "We've told them that several times and we don't have the information that we asked for."

Other parents threatened not to vote for the referendum after the school board passed a controversial student assignment plan. The plan will shift students to different schools to help reduce high concentrations of poverty at certain schools.

"It would be unfortunate that someone would be vindictive in terms of casting a vote that's no because they didn't get their way," Wilcox said. "I would ask them to look at the larger picture."

The campaign committee says it will work hard to come up with solutions to help voters understand why the bonds are so important. In addition to Griffin on the bond committee, other co-chairs are Debra Plousha Moore, Julie Cho, Carlos Sanchez and Brandon Neal. The co-chairs will visit neighborhood meetings to speak with people and try to answer questions they may have.

"We've got to do what needs to be done," McCray said. "And like I said, this is not about this board. This is about the children we serve here in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. And if we are truly, truly wanting to promote upward mobility for our kids, we have got to vote yes for these bonds."

The bond vote is November 7.

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