CPCC board backs sales tax increase as campaign launches Friday

Central Piedmont Community College’s trustees have unanimously endorsed a proposed sales tax increase, becoming the last of four recipients to take a stand on the measure that will be decided by voters in November.

The CPCC resolution follows similar support from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the Arts & Science Council and public library – the other three recipients authorized by Mecklenburg County commissioners to get money generated by a quarter-cent local sales tax raise. Voters must approve a November referendum before the tax is levied.

Under a resolution narrowly approved by a 5-4 commission vote in June, CMS would get 80 percent of the added revenues, with CPCC and ASC each receiving 7.5 percent. The library would get the remainder.

“We are excited that the county commissioners have seen fit to help (CPCC) attract and retain top talent,” said Ed Dalrymple, who chairs the CPCC Board of Trustees. “We are firmly behind our resolution.”

The CPCC stand comes on the eve of representatives from all four groups launching a campaign called Together4Meck to win voter approval for the increase. The campaign is scheduled to kick off Friday morning at CPCC.

Typically in the past, the Charlotte Chamber has spearheaded such campaigns. But the Chamber announced in August that it would mount a campaign only for the city’s $146 million bond referendum on the same ballot.

So the four recipients are mounting their own campaign.

“Through this campaign, we hope we can create a community conversation about the importance of the four groups and the economic development and quality of life they all bring to Mecklenburg County,” said Marinn Bengel, the campaign’s coordinator.

Bengel said the campaign will use only private money donated by residents, foundations and organizations “that care about these four organizations.”

The campaign, she said, will engage leaders to talk about the importance to Mecklenburg of keeping the four recipients strong and competitive. Organizers will also use social and digital media to inform voters how the added money will be used. And they will employ a “more old-fashion campaign approach” through yard signs and phone banks to get out the same information.

None of that information will be on the ballot. By state law, it will only ask voters if they’re for or against raising Mecklenburg’s local sales tax by a quarter penny.

Dalrymple said the money CPCC would get from the sales tax would go “into a pool where we could bump salaries of existing faculty or use it to add new people. It’s all for salaries.”

Last month, ASC President Robert Bush said the approximately $2.6 million it would receive annually would largely go for educational programs. Bush said his group tentatively would use $1.5 million for education initiatives such as field trips for students, in-school and out-of-school programs and Studio 345, the free after-school program that uses digital photography, media arts and multimedia design to inspire students to stay in school and graduate.

Another $850,000 would be used to stabilize ASC grants and arts and culture programs in county parks and the public library.