CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh has warned Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ 18,000-plus employees not to celebrate the prospect of raises yet, saying CMS leaders are wary of county commissioners’ restrictions on that money.
Hattabaugh and the board asked Mecklenburg County for a $27.5 million increase, saying the top priority for that money was providing 3 percent across-the-board raises after three years of frozen pay. County Manager Harry Jones recommended a $9.5 million bump, for a total of $335 million.
In a unanimous “straw poll” vote Wednesday, commissioners approved $335 million for CMS but agreed to put $18.5 million into a restricted fund that would be released only for employee raises. That means CMS would get $316 million for everything else, a reduction from this year.
In an email to all CMS employees, Hattabaugh called the contingency fund “unprecedented.”
“To have our operating budget restricted by a governing body other than the Board of Education is not desirable. For that reason, our Board members are concerned and are reviewing the possible consequences of accepting restricted money in this way,” he wrote. He closed by cautioning, “I’d hold off on celebrating your raise just yet.”
Commissioners will take their official budget vote Tuesday, and the school board is scheduled to discuss the budget on Wednesday.
Judy Kidd, president of the Classroom Teachers Association, said Hattabaugh’s response to the county vote raises doubts about his sincerity in insisting raises are the top budget priority, a point Hattabaugh has been hammering for months.
“It does make you wonder,” Kidd said Friday. “(Commissioners) are actually doing exactly what they were asked to do, and that is provide the raises.”
CMS also is waiting for state legislators to vote on a 2012-13 budget, which covers more than half of the district’s operating budget. A final decision about the CMS budget is likely to land after July 1, when Hattabaugh leaves the district and Heath Morrison takes over.
Morrison, who is closing out his work in Reno, Nev., said by phone Friday he is “optimistic” about the raises but still trying to learn more about what the commissioners’ decision means.
“We all want to see our employees, especially the teachers, get the raise,” he said. But he noted that the CMS budget request included increases to cover enrollment growth and rising costs, which will have to be covered no matter what the county does.