It was a busy day for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools June 8. In one morning, school officials announced they had enough money to keep most of the full time positions they thought they may lose. And then came
the second bombshell: Peter Gorman announced he is resigning as superintendent and taking a job with News Corporation in New York.
Just one day before, the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners voted to give CMS half of the $50 million the Board of Education had requested. The board voted 5-4 along party lines to give CMS $26 million in additional funds for the next school year. It was unclear to the Mecklenburg County board how much, if any, CMS would receive in state funding.The Mint Hill Times
However, the $26 million was not enough to cover the three most important items that CMS said it would fund first if it got additional money.
Gorman said that to keep class sizes lower, maintain student weighted staffing, and keep support positions such as literacy facilitators and media specialists, they would need $34 million. However, CMS’s
announcement last week noted the $26 million would indeed cover the total cost of keeping 570 positions.
“We will use the $26 million just as we told the county that we would,” said Chief Operating Officer Hugh Hattabaugh. “The $26 million will mean we don’t have to increase class sizes and we don’t have to
change our weighted student-staffing formula. Together those two items add up to $24 million – and we’ll apply the remaining $2 million to the next item in the tier, which is support staff in schools.”
While teachers who had already been given pink slips were delighted at the news that they would keep their jobs, Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James, who represents the Mint Hill area, called foul.
“The whole thing was kabuki theater to whip up support from soccer moms,” James said this week.
James said he believed Gorman knew they were about to get extra funds from the state and CMS did not pass the information on to the county commissioners. He believes if the county was aware of more state funding to CMS before the board of commissioners passed its 2011-2012 budget, CMS may have received less funds from the county.
Tim Morgan represents the Mint Hill and South Charlotte areas on the CMS board of education. He said CMS staff and the board of education were open with the county commissioners throughout the
process.
“We’ve heard the same stuff from Mr. James before,” Morgan said. “We (CMS) have been open and forthright with the board of commissioners.”
The board of education has been in touch with the general assembly throughout the process. Morgan said there was a possibility all along that CMS could receive more funding from the state.
CMS originally said it would need $100 million to maintain positions and programs in the school system. Peter Gorman and CMS staff ranked the priorities so the money would go to the most important
needs first. James said there are signs CMS withheld information from the board of commissioners. He said CMS’s delay in announcing its Reduction in Force until the county budget was
approved indicated that Gorman knew they wergoing to get millions from the state.
“I’m absolutely certain Gorman knew before the county voted to give them the $26 million,” James said.
Morgan insisted the commissioners knew there was a chance CMS would get additional funds. He said they are still unsure exactly how much the state will give CMS.
“Whether Bill knew it or not we have been open about asking for money from the state and county,” he said.
James attempted to recall the budget the county board of commissioners voted on last week. However, due to state law, once a county approves the budget, it can’t be undone. James said he would like to see
this law changed so boards can change their minds if new information comes to them after the budget is approved. James also said he would like to see a law similar to one in California where it
would take two-thirds of a majority to raise taxes.
“Mecklenburg County is addicted to money,” he said. “We can’t rely on local government to do the right thing. CMS is going to lie through their teeth—they’ve done it for years.