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CMS board will look at budget trims

County boost was less than hoped for; state spending is unclear

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools leaders will start looking at ways to trim their 2013-14 spending plan Tuesday, after Mecklenburg County commissioners granted a smaller-than-requested increase.

In May, the school board approved a plan that called for almost $366 million in county money, an increase of $28.5 million over 2012-13. Plans for new spending include expanding magnets and classroom technology, adding reading programs for young students who are falling behind and providing support to help teachers prepare for new technology and the Common Core curriculum.

The county budget approved last week includes a $19 million increase for CMS, part of a plan that requires a 2.35-cent property tax increase.

Tuesday’s agenda calls for the school board to start reviewing options. Superintendent Heath Morrison said last week that staff may propose trims such as slowing the schedule for new technology, including wireless Internet access in mobile classrooms and projectors for all classrooms.

But Morrison said it’s still too early to lock in a plan, with state legislators hashing out the budget that provides more than half of CMS’ $1.2 billion operating budget.

State decisions influence county spending. For instance: The original CMS budget reflected a 1 percent employee raise, which was what Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposal called for. But House and Senate budget plans call for no raises.

If a no-raise plan passes, that eliminates the need for $2.2 million in county money that would have been used to provide 1 percent raises for county-paid CMS staff.

“We will continue to advocate in Raleigh for at the very least the 1 percent,” Morrison said last week.

He said as North Carolina slips down the ranks of states on teacher pay, “it is going to be very hard to make the case for quality teachers to come and stay in North Carolina.”

But if the push for a raise prevails, CMS will have to cut other areas of county spending.

Tuesday’s meeting starts at 6 p.m. in Room 267 of the Government Center, 600 E. Fourth St. It is open to the public but doesn’t include a comment period.

Helms: 704-358-5033; Twitter @anndosshelms
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