The $290 million bond package for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools got its first formal opposition today, as Tom Davis from SPARK Educational Performances and Tim Timmerman from SMART issued a statement urging voters to say no (read their statement here).
SPARK, or Strategic Partners for Accountability and Reform of Key Educational Performances, is a north suburban group that has argued for splitting CMS into smaller districts. SMART, or South Mecklenburg Alliance of Responsible Taxpayers, is based in the southern Ballantyne area and joined with SPARK to explore the notion of splitting the county into northern, southern and central school districts.
|Timmerman at a SMART meeting|
It's unclear how many people these two groups represent. "We've got hundreds of people out there who support us," Davis, an Air Force retiree and Republican political activist from Huntersville, said today. (Update: Davis, who ran for N.C. House in the 2012 Republican primary, says he's now registered unaffiliated.) He said he and Timmerman weren't the only people who crafted the position statement, but he declined to give numbers or names, saying many fear running afoul of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, a major backer of the "Vote Yes for Education Bonds" campaign.
The "vote no" position paper raises several issues, including uncertainty over the role that charter schools and vouchers will play in CMS growth projections, skepticism about the "no tax increase" claim and a call for Mecklenburg County to focus its energy on getting teachers a cost-of-living raise. County officials say they can cover the cost of repaying the CMS bonds, along with $210 million in bonds for Central Piedmont Community College on the Nov. 5 ballot, without raising taxes. But Davis argues that today's voters and officials can't "tie the hands" of future county officials.
"Current elected officials and special lobbying groups cannot bind the voting privilege of future elected officials. This breaches credibility and trust," the statement says. "No one can guarantee what will transpire with future tax rates."
The "vote yes" campaign hopes to raise $300,000 in donations and has hired a PR firm to help make the case. Davis said the SPARK/SMART effort won't be anything like that. "We're not going to get money into it," he said. "We're going to get the information on the street and let people make decisions."
He said the groups don't plan to take a stand on the CPCC bonds.
Just last week, Davis was just appointed to the Bond Oversight Committee, a citizen panel that monitors how CMS spends its bond money, by school board member Richard McElrath. Davis says he missed the Bond Oversight Committee's meeting last week because he didn't realize it was coming up just two days after his appointment.
McElrath opposed the last CMS bonds, in 2007, before being elected to the board in 2009. He's running for reelection this year and said he doesn't expect to take a stand for or against this year's bonds.