Wednesday, July 9, 2014

CMS/Meck talk on sales tax sparks war of words

A meeting scheduled today between leaders of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Mecklenburg County sparked allegations by Commissioner Bill James that it's a  "secret meeting"  to plot strategy for a November referendum on a sales tax hike.

School board Vice Chair Tim Morgan and Commissioners' Chair Trevor Fuller say it's simply a session for county officials to brief their CMS counterparts on the plan for a quarter-cent increase that would go toward teacher raises.


Morgan,  a Republican,  says he and CMS board Chair Mary McCray requested the meeting after commissioners approved the sales tax referendum in May.  He said they had been reading about the plan in the newspaper but hadn't gotten a first-hand report.  If approved,  the hike is expected to raise up to $35 million a year,  with 80 percent for CMS salaries and the rest divided among CPCC,  the Arts & Science Council and libraries.

A meeting was set to include Morgan,  McCray,  Fuller,  commissioners' Vice Chair Dumont Clarke,  County Manager Dena Diorio and Superintendent Heath Morrison.

Morgan said commissioner Matthew Ridenhour,  also a Republican,  texted him to ask if such a meeting was happening.  "I said 'absolutely,' "  Morgan said Tuesday.  "It's not a secret to our folks."

Ridenhour said he contacted the board services office and was told it was a leadership meeting which he couldn't attend. He then emailed Fuller and other commissioners,  saying he understood that it was a meeting to craft a memo that commissioners would eventually vote on.

"Given the subject matter of the meeting,  the allocation of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars,  I had hoped to sit in on this meeting so I could be fully aware of what was being discussed. ...  I was quite surprised to learn that I am not allowed to attend the meeting, nor are any other Commissioners allowed to attend,"  he wrote.  Ridenhour asked that the county clerk take minutes for the full board to review.

James,  a Republican,  took the matter further in an email copied to news media:  "This meeting sounds like a secret planning meeting to figure out how to present the sales tax proposal to the media/public without them knowing about the details in advance.  If the Democrats want to do that they should just go somewhere else other than the government center to hatch their plans. They certainly shouldn’t involve the County Manager and sup(erintendent)."

"I would point out that government resources of ANY kind can’t be used to promote or support a ballot initiative,"  James added.  "Ultimately, what is the reason for meeting with CMS and the various managers but to coordinate ballot support in violation of state law."  He said Morrison and Diorio count as such resources and their participation is  "ill-advised and I believe illegal."

Fuller,  a Democrat,  responded that Ridenhour's message was riddled with inaccuracies.  There is no plan to draft a memo,  he said.

"The unremarkable fact is that the chair of the school board asked (and I agreed) for us to meet so as to better understand the meaning and intent of the County Commission's policy concerning the sales tax referendum. Since you oppose this policy, I don't understand what legitimate reason you have to insist on being part of the meeting,"  Fuller said.  "In any case, since this is not an official meeting of the Board of County Commissioners, it is inappropriate for a single commissioner to request that the Clerk of the Board serve as a personal stenographer."

A note:  It's neither uncommon nor illegal for small groups of elected officials to meet to discuss business.  However,  if a meeting involves a quorum of the board,  it becomes subject to the N.C. Open Meetings Law,  which requires public notice and an opportunity for the public to attend.

George Dunlap,  a Democrat who was a school board member before he became a county commissioner,  emailed that some of his colleagues seem to have suddenly  "gotten religion"  in taking umbrage at such meetings.

"The meeting is not a secret if you know about it,"  Dunlap said in a reply to James.  "Every one of us has meetings or has had a meeting with folk the (sic) we want at the table,  and we didn't open it up to anyone else."

Morgan said his goal is to get information to report back to the full school board.  "This is the proper role of leadership of the boards to have this conversation,"  he said.


Anonymous said...

The term leadership, CMS, and Mecklenburg County Commission have absolutely nothing in common. Time to break out Firesign Theater again, "I Think We're all Bozos on this Bus."

Wiley Coyote said...

Typical political garbage.

NO SALES TAX increase! Not even for teacher salaries. The state is handling this as they should.

Stay out of it Mecklenburg County. Any elected rep from the county or CMS Board who supports this sales tax increase should be voted out.

This blind "it's for the children" approach to waste tax dollars needs to end.

We're also looking at our Clueless in Chief sticking his nose into education again by mandating "good teachers" be sent to "needy schools".

If that isn't a slap in the face to teachers and taxpayers, I don't know what is.

Hey Barack? The 70's are over. Get a clue.

Anonymous said...

Wingnut GOPer Legislature and puppet Governor cut income tax rates for corporations and 1%ers. That results in no teacher salary increases. To get an increase we have to approve higher sales taxes. Typical shenanigons.

Anonymous said...

More money is stolen in Charlotte with the " In the name of God " statement than " Its for the children ".

Unknown said...


There is more riding on this November vote than a measly quarter cent sales tax. Should the referendum fail, it would signal for a long time to come that Mecklenburgers don’t want a separate taxing district for education.

I’ve attended enough BOE meetings and BOE committee meetings to know that CMS hates going to the county to “beg” for funding every year. So, the purpose of this semi-secret BOE-BOCC conclave is about how to eventually have one tax district for schools and another for other county services. They won’t be saying that out loud, but you’ll be able to hear their little brains clicking away…clicketty tax, clickety tax, clickety tax.

Isn’t this how government always gets deep into taxpayers’ pockets? Just like carving up a cow for steaks. Take a little here, then a little there and finally the cow is all gone.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

This is a scam. Just ask Heath where he's getting the money for all the additional CMS Admin jobs that were just created. C'mon Mr. Morgan, you too know there are plenty of places within CMS where cuts could be made and the teacher salary increases could come from.

Anonymous said...

Shenanigans on whose part, anon at 8:17? We know Fuller is a clown. If he moves, it is a shenanigan.

Anonymous said...

Secret Sales tax meeting between Mecklenburg Countynburg coun and CMS set for 2PM today at the CMGC on the 5th floor. County policy requires that any requests come first from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and State law prohibits meetings on government property to sell a ballot initiative. This law was passed by the General Assembly years ago to prevent governments from proposing ballot items and then spending tax dollars (and using government employees) to pass them. It is a good rule. The secret meeting appears to be about talking how to pass the ballot item and how CMS can help (they can't legally) since the Democrats plan on selling the sales tax as being for 'teachers' (legally they can't promise that) .

One of the participants at this meeting today (a Democrat) then asked the County Attorney the following:

"Marvin, I would like to know the extent to which the County can use its resources, people, technology, and funds, to inform the public about the facts regarding the one-quarter cent sales tax referendum."

So, obviously the secret meeting today is so that this group can get together and talk about how to pass the ballot initiative. That activity is illegal. No government employees or assets can be used to sell or promote a ballot item.

Also - State law prohibits the current board from guaranteeing that the sales tax be allocated for teacher raises (or the arts or anything else). State law requires that it only be used to contribute to the bottom line - a tax increase for the County. The Democrats may want to 'sell' the tax increase as being 'for teachers' but it isn't legal for them to do so.

This post is related to Ann Doss Helms blog post linked below. Matthew Ridenhour initially objected to not be allowed to attend (and later asked for records to be kept that was also rejected). Bill James (County Commission)

Anonymous said...

It would seem the rest of the local politicians would have gotten the hint with the FBI indicting former Mayor Cannon that Charlotte and Mecklenburg County can not make up its own rules how to run the town. Looks like we need the SBI and FBI to clean out all the uptown government offices.

Wiley Coyote said...

Why should Democrats care about the law or consequences?

Our current President is the poster boy for committing Constitutional fraud and he's supposedly a "constitutional lawyer".

He's refused to enforce DOMA.

He's refused to enforce Federal laws on drugs and has a beer in Colorado before taking a leisurely stroll to shake hands with his pothead constituents.

He's refused to enforce current immigration laws and will be heading to Texas to do fundraising and ignore the problem he helped create at the border. Oh heck, he might even change the diapers of his party's future voters being housed in Border Patrol offices and military bases - if he decides to go take a look-see at his mess.

He's changed his own healthcare law with his phone and pen numerous times and given exemptions to his 1% cronies, while blasting the Hobby Lobby verdict.

Now he expects LEAs to put "quality teachers" in every CMS classroom.

Tell us how you intend to do that and pay for it, Heath.

All the while Kool Aid drinking New Hypocrisy Democrats will blindly vote for tax increases to fund the idiocy.

Anonymous said...

If ever there was a need for"outside" money to come in and fight a referendum, it is now,m the dems don't think they need to follow the law; neither should opponents of the referendum. Outside money from dark places? Bring it on! This bunch in charge is pathetic, so you gotta fight dire with an even hotter fire!

Ghoul said...

Why is any tax money given to the Arts & Science Council? This "charity" is just a front for the affluent, with too much time on their hands, to skim donations to provide exorbitant salaries for doing very little. If Govco wants to give money to local government museums, then just give it to them straight, without the "costs" a "charity" claims off the top.

Anonymous said...

anon 8:17,
while you insult the Republicans for their actions, I would suggest that you take a look at what Easley and Perdue did for public education in this state during their respective tenures. I can sum it up for you in one word, NOTHING!
The ineffective democratic leadership is precisly why the GOP was able to take control in this state for the first time in over 100 years. I am not saying a I agree with everything they are doing, but give them some credit, they have listened to the people on this issue and are working to do something about it. Again, what did Easley do when he had the chance, NOTHING!

Anonymous said...

On a side note has Ann Doss ever posted her annual salary and if not why?
Why is her salary not public? The public pays for the media but more important they pay taxes that are public and the advertisers pay taxes that are public.

Concerned Charter Schoolers

Anonymous said...

I don't mind the teachers getting a pay raise. I just wish the folks downtown would take a cut. Education money should be in the classroom with teachers and students. I would vote for a pay raise before I voted for a bond. As far
Private sector companies should not have to show their employees pay. Public enterprises with public money should. If a school or enterprise wishes to keep pay private, become private. Give the tax money back.

Anonymous said...

to "Concerned Charter Schoolers",

Ann Helms is a reporter/writer for a privately held company, her pay is not supplemented by tax dollars,thus her salary is not part of the public domain.

Anonymous said...

I'm concerned about the education our "concerned charter schoolers" do NOT seem to receiving.

And when did it become illegal to drink a beer in Colorado?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for interpreting that for 1:58. I hope he/she will be just as concerned when Mega Charter comes into their school with the administration fees and building leases. The hedge fund managers are licking their chops in anticipation.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the Senate.. Put the money in the classrooms. Cut DPI and the educrats downtown.. Why is Mcory catering to them. If we pay teachers better, we can be more selective on we hire. People in offices creating paperwork are part of the problem. NOT THE SOLUTION!!!

Anonymous said...

On who we hire

Anonymous said...

Heath & CMS are tone deaf. The very same timeframe they (again) increase administrative costs, they plead for more money to "pay teachers". It ain't to "pay teachers", it's to maintain their huge infrastructure that is stifling teachers.