A move to restore more than 100 school library jobs by pulling the money out of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' public relations department created strong debate before failing 6-3 Tuesday.
Board member Ken Gjertsen's motion came during the final sign-off on CMS's $1.2 billion budget, which tends to be routine after a spring and summer spent hashing out spending. Opponents accused him of lobbing a last-minute bombshell without providing financial details.
“We've all had many opportunities to discuss this” before Tuesday night, Chairman Joe White said, calling Gjertsen's motion an attempt “to hijack a budget on the last night of a vote.”
But Gjertsen told colleagues and Superintendent Peter Gorman he had argued repeatedly for restoring the jobs and “you didn't take me seriously.” Afterward he said he believed going into the meeting that he had the votes to restore the jobs.
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Gorman announced in July that he would eliminate jobs for 11 librarians and 93.5 library assistants, along with dozens of other CMS jobs, because county commissioners didn't OK all the money CMS had asked for.
Gjertsen said that if Gorman needed a suggestion on where to find money, he should take it out of the communications department budget: “As important as public relations is, I don't think it's as important as helping children get those books.”
Larry Gauvreau and Kaye McGarry, the board's other two Republicans, joined Gjertsen in voting for the motion and against the overall budget.
Gorman said it would cost $3.1 million to restore the jobs; the budget for the 29-member communications department, which includes CMS-TV and the staff that works with community partnerships, is $3.3 million.
“I don't think this is the way we make a budget. This is essentially wiping out a department,” board member Tom Tate said.
Member Molly Griffin called the last-minute proposal, which wasn't put in writing, cavalier.
The final budget, approved 6-3, is about $21 million more than last year's.