Diorio to recommend more money for county-funded CMS employees

Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio will recommend Wednesday night that county commissioners fund a total of $12.2 million to raise salaries of about 2,800 county-funded Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools employees.

When commissioners approved Mecklenburg’s current budget in June, they set aside $7.3 million in contingency until state lawmakers decided how much they’d raise pay for state-paid teachers. Typically, the county matches that level for CMS employees it pays.

After the legislature approved an average 7 percent teacher pay raise, CMS requested an additional $4.9 million to bump pay for county-funded employees to the same level.

Diorio said Tuesday she’ll recommend that commissioners release the money from contingency and fund CMS’s request.

“We knew when we finished the budget that we’d need more money to satisfy the local match,” she said. “We just didn’t know how much.”

Only commissioner Bill James has said publicly he won’t support the additional funding.

Board Chair Trevor Fuller said Tuesday that he will.

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” Fuller said. “When we set aside the $7.3 million, we knew that probably wouldn’t be enough. We certainly should match for county-funded employees what state employees are getting in terms of pay raises.”

Commissioner Pat Cotham said she’ll vote for the extra money, too. “We should do it,” she said. “If we fund these teachers, we’re obligated to keep them equal to the other teachers.”

Cotham said Diorio told her the additional money would come from money “left over from MeckLINK,” the behavioral health agency the county shut down last year.

Commissioners had been scheduled to vote Wednesday on a proposed smoking ban on grounds of county and municipal government buildings and a ban of all tobacco use at county parks, greenways and golf courses.

That vote likely will be delayed until Oct. 21, Diorio said. She said the two ordinances could look different from the original versions – with golf courses possibly being exempt from the ban, for instance. If they change, the county must provide a 10-day public notice for what commissioners will vote on.

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