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CMS poised to get less than half of additional money requested from Meck Co. government based on county manager's budget recommendation

Some CMS Board members are already pushing to get more.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is poised to get less than half of the additional money it requested from the Mecklenburg County government. That’s if the county’s top executive gets her way.

The county manager, Dena Diorio, said the amount of additional money CMS was asking for would eat up most of the total net growth of the county’s upcoming budget.

“CMS has budget requests of $578.4 million reflects an increase of $40.4 million or 7.5% funding the total increase would consume 76% of the total net growth revenue available for fiscal year 2023,” Diorio said. “Having said that, my recommended budget for fiscal year 2023 includes an increase of $19.9 million or 3.7%”

The additional money in the CMS budget request to the county asked for $700,000 to sustain operations, $24.7 million for employment investment, $10.1 million for new facilities and charter school growth, $11.2 million to expand student programs, and preventative maintenance.

The county manager outlined a way CMS could use the $19.9 million she recommended. It included allocating money to fund teacher pay increases, matching the state’s planned increase for principals and non-certified staff, health insurance, and retirement increases.

CMS is under no obligation to allocate the funds as recommended by the county and will have to decide how to use the $19.9 million instead of the $40.3 million it requested.

WCNC Charlotte is always asking "where's the money?" If you need help, reach out to WCNC Charlotte by emailing money@wcnc.com.

“Not only did the manager’s budget not provide preventative maintenance funding, there is no increase for TAs and the average teacher supplement of 5% is only $434, or $43 a paycheck,” at-large board member Jennifer De La Jara said in a statement. “To see the supplement potentially be cut to 5% deeply saddens me because we need to value our educators, including teacher assistants, in our community."

The district wanted a 10% increase valued at $7.9 million to increase the local supplement.

The local supplement is the extra money from the county to bolster paychecks---for teachers and staff.

Diorio said her budget recommendation for the local supplement would allow teachers in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to continue to be some of the highest-paid in the state.

“According to the State Department of Public Instruction, the average teacher supplement at CMS is currently the highest in the state,” Diorio said.

De La Jara said the ranking needs context.

“The manager mentions CMS having the highest supplement already, but it’s only by $8 according to data released in mid-March.  With costs of living soaring in Mecklenburg County, our community needs to be able to attract and retain teachers so putting this into context is important,” De La Jara said. “If you recall, I advocated that the supplement be more than 10% because $868 a year isn’t nearly enough honestly."

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According to data from the NCDPI, Charlotte-Mecklenburg County ranks first in local teacher supplements with $8,678 added to a teachers contract, Wake County Schools follows behind with $8,670, and New Hanover Schools in third with $8,633.

“I'm extremely disappointed,” Susan Rodriguez-McDowell, Mecklenburg County Commissioner for District 6, said. “I think, you know, now more than ever, we have to focus on education. And I think only giving them less than 50% of what they asked for is extremely disappointing.”

The $19.9 million also doesn’t fund raises for teacher assistants or more school resource officers in addition to preventative maintenance costs.

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“Last year, Wake County Commissioners fully funded WCPSS’s budget request and Mecklenburg County seems ready to fully fund CPCC’s [Central Piedmont Community College] budget request for the second year in a row," De La Jara said. "I’m happy for both Wake and CPCC.  I’m just saying that CMS’s 142K students and 19K employees deserve the same respect and resources."

There is a chance county board members will still vote to give CMS more money.

“Before I say I'm going to give them X amount of dollars, I can't do it until I'm clear that children are going to be given a quality education by the school board and maintain quality teachers within the confines of our district,” Vilma Leake, Mecklenburg County Commissioner for District 2, said.

CMS has more than 1,000 job postings up on its website for teachers.

Diorio talked about the struggles the county and school district faced with budget negotiations last year.

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“CMS has advanced implementation of student outcomes focused government governance, made an important leadership change and presented to the Board of County Commissioners its goals and guardrails for improving student outcomes,” Diorio said.

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He wasn’t mentioned by name, but superintendent Earnest Winston and the turmoil associated with his recent termination were certainly on the minds of commissioners.

“I have a real concern about the seriousness of the leadership of the school board," Leake said. "And even the staff that's working with the schools and how competent are they."

CMS Board Chair Elyse Dashew said in a phone call with WCNC Charlotte the county manager's recommendation is only the first step in the final budget process for the upcoming fiscal year.

The CMS school board will talk about the budget recommendations in a meeting next week.

Contact Shamarria Morrison at smorrison@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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