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Campaign cranks up for CMS, CPCC bonds

Business and education boosters hope to raise $300,000 to urge voters to approve bonds for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Central Piedmont Community College in November.

The “Vote Yes for Education Bonds” group has rolled out a website ( www.voteyesforbonds.com) and started seeking volunteers for the campaign, the first in six years. Organizers say they hope to make the case that both groups need the money to cope with growing enrollment and to craft educational options that will bolster Mecklenburg’s economy.

“We got a late start this year,” said Adam Bernstein with Carolina PR, which has been hired to work on the campaign. “Obviously we’ve got to hustle to get the word out.”

The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce and MeckEd, a nonprofit advocacy and information group, are playing lead roles in rallying support for the bonds. Natalie English, the chamber’s public policy executive, heads the campaign. Elizabeth Barnhardt, formerly the governmental affairs director for the Charlotte Regional Realtor Association, has been hired as the sole campaign employee.

On Nov. 5, Mecklenburg voters will be asked to approve $290 million in CMS bonds and $210 million for CPCC. Both are intended to cover five years of construction and renovation projects.

The bond vote coincides with a nonpartisan race for the six district seats on the CMS school board. Bernstein said this year’s bond campaign will by organized by voting district, with an interactive map breaking projects down by area.

In 2007, voters approved a record $516 million in bonds for CMS and $30 million for CPCC. Shortly afterward, the recession stalled construction as county officials slowed their borrowing to rein in debt payments.

CMS and CPCC can both provide information about their needs and construction plans, but cannot spend public money to influence an election. That’s where the privately funded campaign will come in.

No organized opposition to bonds has emerged so far.

Helms: 704-358-5033 Twitter: @anndosshelms
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