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CMS board passes $1.2 billion budget plan

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools board unanimously voted Tuesday to accept Supt. Heath Morrison’s $1.2 billion budget plan for 2013-14, despite lingering questions over dollars expected from the county, state and federal governments.

Morrison’s plan calls for an additional $34 million – a 2.8 percent increase over the current year – with $20 million of it going toward new initiatives, including new technology and magnet programs.

“That sounds like a lot of money and it is indeed,” told the board. “But we are asking on behalf of our students.”

Several board members commented it wasn’t enough money, but conceded the district faced obstacles getting additional dollars at the county and state level.

Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed budget would eliminate about 3,000 teacher-assistant jobs statewide, a move McCrory’s staff says would be offset by adding teachers. Some board members were not convinced, however.

“Our critics will say the board will only ask for more without considering the fiscal reality,” said board member Eric Davis. “What we ask for is only a small fraction of what our students need to succeed. … That’s why it’s so important for our full request to be funded.”

A key part of the plan is a request for almost $366 million from Mecklenburg County, a $28.5 million increase over the current year. County commissioners vote on their budget in June, and some commissioners have expressed doubt that they can come up with the extra money.

If granted, the additional dollars would bring Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to pre-recession levels of county spending, although enrollment has also kept growing since the county started making cuts in 2009. The district educates more than 141,000 students and expects about 3,000 more next year.

Morrison’s proposal also calls for 1 percent raises for the district’s 18,000 employees.

The board also voted to start construction on a long-overdue gym for Myers Park High. Work will begin June 16 after graduation, with a projected completion date of August 2014.

The cost is projected at $7.2 million, using 2002 and 2007 bond money.

Built in 1951, the current gym holds only 650 of the school’s 2,800 students. The new, two-story gym will have a seating capacity of about 1,700 for athletic events, officials said.

The old gym will remain in use for physical education, officials have said. The two buildings will share a single lobby.

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