Will it take a tax increase to pay for teacher raises? - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Will it take a tax increase to pay for teacher raises?

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board (CMS) just approved a $1.3 billion budget at its Tuesday night meeting. 

It was an unanimous decision. 

The budget includes a 3 percent raise for all CMS workers. 

The school district wants $46.2 million more from the county than it got last year to pay for that raise.

The total request from CMS to the county is more than $402 million. 

Now it's up to school board members to convince Mecklenburg county commissioners to hand over that money.

"We were very intentional this year," CMS Superintendent Dr. Heath Morrison said. "Saying listen, we need to approach this as if the state might not do anything and we need to come out of this with at least a three percent."

School board members will be lobbying and talking to commissioners one by one to get them to say yes to the request. Board members believe the county can afford the ask. 

"It is absolutely realistic." CMS School Board member Thelma Byers-Bailey said.

North Carolina voters are now weighing in on this budget battle. Many say they wouldn't mind a tax increase to fund teacher raises.  County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour says the county can't afford CMS' request and says a tax increase is not an option.

"I don't think you think you are going to find the community for a tax increase as a whole." Ridenhour said.

His colleague Commissioner Vilma Leake is in the middle about a tax increase.

"I am not going to say no, no, no," Leake said. "But I am not going to say yes, yes, yes either - because we can tighten up."

Leake is now pushing for a 5% increase for all CMS workers. She has requested the county manager give her a list of all agencies the county financially supports.

"We need to look with whom we are providing funds - extra funds," Leake said. "Or to cut back and see if we can put it where it is needed greater."

While the budget battle continues Ridenhour is upset at the process.  He is concerned CMS unveiled its budget request before talking to county commissioners.  He believes that process is causing the community to point fingers at commissioners.

"It's really put the County Commission with our backs against the wall," Ridenhour said. "And it's been very frustrating. We shouldn't be painted as the bad guys. We want the same thing the community wants for our teachers - to be well taken care of." 

Next week CMS school board members and Mecklenburg County Commissioners will meet to discuss the school district's budget request.

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