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Party Politics Over School Teachers?‏

Matthew Ridenhour

Matthew Ridenhour – District 5

On Tuesday night the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners adopted the County Manager’s proposed budget. During discussions, I made a substitute proposal. My proposal would continue to fund everything in the Manager’s budget, but would lower the tax rate by one penny by reducing the allocation to the Debt Service Fund by one penny.

**The Debt Service Fund currently is funded with 20 cents from the 81.57 cents property tax rate. The Debt Service Fund has one penny worth of excess funds being added to it every year. Monies taken out of Debt Service Fund may only be used for one-time expenses.**

So my proposal was to take that extra penny currently going to the Debt Service Fund, and return it back to the taxpayers via a property tax reduction of one penny. This would have zero effect on the services provided in the Manager’s budget. A number of my Democrat colleagues, particularly Commissioner Leake, began to argue that if we have excess revenue, then the money should go toward education.

I was waiting for this argument to be made.

I then amended my proposal to this: There is $11.5M in excess revenue in Debt Service Fund. Take half of that ($5.75M) and give it to CMS for one-time bonuses (remember, Debt Service Fund monies can ONLY be used for one-time expenses). Take the other half, and lower the tax rate by half a penny. What does this accomplish? It fully funds every the County Manager recommends, it gives CMS employees an extra $5.75M in bonuses, and it lowers the tax rate by half a cent.

My proposal failed.

I do not understand why the majority of the board did not support my motion. It seems that they were so bent on defeating my proposal to lower taxes, that they were content to sacrifice bonuses to CMS in order to defeat it.

For several months we have heard from educators, CMS, and the community about the importance of increasing teacher pay. Yet when the Democrats were presented with the opportunity to provide a bonus to CMS, they declined to do so. Commissioner Leake said she did not like the idea of bonuses, because they are one-time. So, instead she shot down my proposal, and now they get nothing? It does not make any sense. Further, Chairman Trevor Fuller and Commissioner George Dunlap both stated to the Observer on February 20th that they could support a tax cut, so long as it did not affect services. My proposal did not affect services at all, so why did they not support it? I appreciate Commissioners Pat Cotham, Karen Bentley, and Bill James supporting my proposal.

They say, “children before politics”, but last night we saw that party politics clearly trumped the children.

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