Ads on buses, cell towers on school property and fees for take-home student laptops are among ideas being floated as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools launches its 2014-15 budget talks.
An online budget survey that will be open to the public through Friday offers information about the CMS budget and asks for views on possible revenue sources and other issues, such as support for “bring your own technology” programs and teacher raises.
Among the proposals to raise more money are ads on CMS property, buses and the district web site; leasing additional school sites for cell-phone towers and increasing fees for community groups to use schools. The survey also asks if families would be willing to pay an annual fee of $30 to $50 to lease a CMS computer that could be used in class and at home.
CMS administrators have been working on budget plans for weeks, but the public engagement stage kicks off with the survey and a series of community meetings that starts next week. CMS has an annual operating budget that tops $1.2 billion, coming mostly from state, county and federal governments.
The county portion, which accounts for roughly one-third of the budget, tends to generate the most discussion. For CMS, it provides the most flexibility for local innovation.
For county commissioners, annual requests for more money pose a perpetual challenge. Commissioners rate public education as a top priority and acknowledge the need to keep up with enrollment growth and other needs. Yet many balk at raising taxes and/or scaling back on other county services to find that money.
This year, teacher salaries are taking center stage across North Carolina. The CMS survey asks about support for boosting the state pay scale and also asks if people are aware that “the supplement CMS offers is one of the highest in the state.”
Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham said Monday she was taken aback that the question does not mention that money for that supplement comes from the county. CMS has no taxing authority to raise its own revenue.
“I sent a request in to ask if they meant the county and why did they not mention the county,” Cotham said.