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Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools fights building takeover

Saying Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials have been good stewards of tax money, board Chair Mary McCray spoke out Monday against a state Senate bill that would let county commissioners take over buildings and construction.

“CMS capital projects have been on time, under budget and still running smoothly,” McCray said at a news conference.

Senate Bill 236, introduced earlier this month, would allow county commissioners to take over construction, ownership and maintenance of school buildings. It originated with a dispute between Wake County commissioners and their school board, but Sens. Jeff Tarte, R-Mecklenburg, and Tommy Tucker, R-Union, are among the seven sponsors.

“A local political feud should be kept from affecting the whole state,” McCray said. “We feel as if we’re being brought into a local feud.”

Pat Cotham, the Democratic chairwoman of the Mecklenburg County commissioners, said last week there is bipartisan support on that board for taking over CMS buildings if the bill passes. She said she and other commissioners believe the change could benefit county taxpayers and lead to better school maintenance.

Cotham’s comments came after a joint meeting of commissioners and the school board to lay the groundwork for the 2013-14 budget. McCray said Monday that leaders of both boards had agreed not to put SB 236 on that day’s agenda.

CMS, which has 159 schools, manages more than 20 million square feet of building space, compared with about 3 million managed by county staff, McCray said. She cited several examples of schools built under budget, and noted that the new Mecklenburg County Courthouse “did not come in on time or on budget.”

“We can prove that we are much better stewards of tax dollars,” she said.

CMS leaders are working on a priority list for the next 10 years of construction and renovation projects; they are scheduled to present it at next week’s board meeting. The school board and commissioners also plan another joint session to talk about construction projects; a date has not been set.

Helms: 704-358-5033
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