Jobs group seeks city money

The Charlotte economy is improving, but a number of residents pleaded with the Charlotte City Council on Monday, asking that the city not forget those without jobs and low-wage city workers.

As part of the public hearing on the city’s proposed fiscal year 2015 budget, a group called Coalition for Jobs asked council members for $10 million in seed money for a jobs subsidy program.

The group hopes to find jobs for 1,000 long-term unemployed residents. The jobs would pay $10 an hour, and would be subsidized at different amounts for six months depending on the size of the employer.

Supporters of the project – and those seeking jobs – wore T-shirts to the council meeting that said “I Need a Job.”

Council members are scheduled Wednesday to discuss City Manager Ron Carlee’s proposed budget. There is no money currently in the budget for the group.

The coalition – whose supporters include the NAACP, Crisis Assistance Ministries and the Urban League – has also been lobbying county commissioners and the Foundation for the Carolinas for funding.

“I have been unemployed since 2012,” said Susan Glantzman, who asked council members to support the proposal. “We are told the recession is over, but it’s not getting better.”

She said she applies for numerous jobs each week, but has been unsuccessful.

Former council member Beth Pickering, who served from 2011 to 2013, also spoke in favor of the funding.

“We spend money on baseball stadiums, on football stadiums,” Pickering said. “People expect us to invest in people, too.”

The program, if funded, could be managed by Mecklenburg County’s Department of Social Services, supporters said.

Carlee’s proposed budget includes a 3 percent raise for city employees.

James Locklear, president of Charlotte City Workers chapter of UE 150, which is mostly comprised of sanitation workers, has asked for higher pay and better working conditions for more than two years. He asked that the 3 percent raise be given to all employees, rather than having the increase come in the form of a “raise pool” in which some employees receive more than 3 percent and some make less.

“How long can we last?” Locklear asked council members Monday. “You want to work us like horses ... and (feed us) chicken feed.”

Carlee’s budget doesn’t include a property tax increase. Bus and train fares could increase by 20 cents, and there is also a small monthly increase in water and stormwater fees and rates. For the average homeowner, those increases will be about $2 a month.

Council members last year approved a 7.25 percent property tax increase that funded an $816 million capital spending program.

The general fund is projected to be $584.1 million for the upcoming fiscal year.

The budget would also make 187 full-time temporary workers regular full-time employees. That would make them eligible for health benefits as well as a partially funded retirement plan.

Council members are scheduled to take a final vote on the budget next month.