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CMS, CPCC bonds are easily approved

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Mecklenburg County voters voiced fierce support for public education Tuesday in approving $500 million in bond issues for local schools and Central Piedmont Community College.

The $290 million in bonds for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools won 74 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting. That was the largest margin of victory for a CMS bond vote since the 73 percent approval in 1997.

Voters approved $210 million in bonds for CPCC with nearly 72 percent in favor.

More than 112,000 votes were cast on each of the bond questions.

This year’s legislative session likely played a role in the high CMS approval rate, bond boosters said. As lawmakers cut teacher pay incentives and tenure while supporting charter and private schools, some voters felt education was under attack.

“I think that the voters are very determined to support public education,” said campaign manager Natalie English, a Charlotte Chamber of Commerce senior vice president. “They worried about some of the impacts of the legislative changes and understood, like the business community does, that education develops a workforce and is critical to a quality of life.”

The money, to be spent over five years, will pay for 17 CMS projects, many of them aimed at easing overcrowding and updating older schools. They include expansions to Olympic and East Mecklenburg high schools and renovations to Myers Park and South Mecklenburg highs.

CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison hinted that the district could ask county commissioners for another bond issue in the near future.

While the district appreciates the $290 million, he said, “it certainly doesn’t address the many, many needs we still have.”

CPCC, whose enrollment has surged 37 percent since 2006, will get 10 projects to modernize facilities, create technical training space and add classrooms and labs.

Tuesday’s vote was the first for school bonds since 2007, when voters approved a record $516 million for CMS and $30 million for CPCC.

The campaign to support the bonds reported last week that it had raised $118,000 in private money, well short of its $300,000 target. English said more money has come in since then, pushing the total close to $200,000.

No organized opposition to the bonds emerged.

Henderson: 704-358-5051; Twitter: @bhender
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