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CMS bonds draw suburban opposition

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Leaders of two suburban groups who have pushed to split Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools into smaller districts urged voters on Monday to reject the $290 million bond package on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Tom Davis, speaking for a north suburban education group, and Tim Timmerman, speaking for a south suburban taxpayer group, issued a statement opposing the bonds for a number of reasons. They cited distrust of the promise not to raise taxes and skepticism about whether CMS’ planning accounts for the prospect of increasing charter enrollment and upcoming vouchers for private schools.

“Because the community feels ignored and does not trust CMS, there is a current and rapid exodus to charter schools and home schools,” the statement says.

Bonds are a form of borrowing in which voters pledge tax revenue to repay the debt. Mecklenburg County officials say they can repay the CMS bonds – which will go toward building new schools and renovating and expanding existing ones, from the revenue already coming in – without raising property taxes. But Davis and Timmerman say it’s impossible to be sure that future county commissioners won’t raise taxes.

The statement comes from the northern Strategic Partners for Accountability and Reform of Key Educational Performances and the South Mecklenburg Alliance of Responsible Taxpayers. It is not clear how many people these two groups represent.

“We’ve got hundreds of people out there who support us,” said Davis, an Air Force retiree and Republican political activist from Huntersville. He said he and Timmerman weren’t the only people who crafted the position statement, but he declined to give numbers or names, saying many fear running afoul of the Charlotte Chamber, a major backer of the “ Vote Yes for Education Bonds” campaign.

Davis said the groups don’t plan to take a stand on the $210 million in bonds for Central Piedmont Community College on the Nov. 5 ballot.

The “vote yes” campaign, which supports the CMS and CPCC bonds, hopes to raise $300,000 in donations and has hired a PR firm to help make the case. Davis said the SPARK/SMART effort won’t be anything like that.

“We’re not going to get money into it,” he said. “We’re going to get the information on the street and let people make decisions.”

This is the first school bond vote since 2007, when voters approved $516 million for CMS and $30 million for CPCC. In 2005, voters approved $46.5 million for CPCC but rejected $427 million for CMS.

Helms: 704-358-5033; Twitter: @anndosshelms
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