The CMS school board decided to support the quarter cent sales tax that would mostly go to teacher pay. But board members made it clear Tuesday night they did not like how it ended up on the ballot.
Board members called the referendum a gift. Chairperson Mary McCray and others said they support it because the money would prevent good teachers from leaving CMS classrooms for districts that paid more.
"They did something courageous that they knew would help our teachers out in this tough budget season that we were having and will probably have for awhile," said McCray.
But then came her reprimand.
"Were we happy the way it rolled out? No. I’d be the first one to say we were not because we were not included. But are we happy about it being out here? I would say I am."
Several other board members agreed they should’ve been consulted.
The CMS board asked county commissioners this year to include enough money in the district’s budget to give teachers a 3 percent raise. Instead, commissioners came up with the quarter cent sales tax. It would go toward CMS employee pay, CPCC, libraries and arts group.
All but one commissioner, Rhonda Lennon who represents north Mecklenburg County, voted to support the sales tax.
"The courageous thing would have been for our county commission to actually look hard at their budget and find the money within their current budget to honor our budget request," said Lennon.
As for future budgets, she worries county commissioners will use the sales tax as a reason to reduce money going to CMS. Vice Chairperson Tim Morgan
who represents southern Mecklenburg County said it still makes sense to support the tax.
"Ms. Lennon, I agree with you. While this is not the process that I would’ve picked, and I personally think there are other ways to pay for this through additional dollars we get through the county right now, this is what we have. This is what they’ve given us."
CMS has not laid out a plan to allot the money. But CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison has said part of it would help raise salaries of some veteran teachers who won’t get much of a boost through state raises this year. These raises wouldn’t kick in until next year.