South Charlotte

CMS leader backs county sales-tax hike

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Heath Morrison addressed a standing-room-only Ballantyne Breakfast Club meeting Aug. 16, covering topics including the loss of teachers to South Carolina and a proposed 2014 sales-tax referendum.

Morrison said he’s committed to bringing teachers back to CMS, noting that many have crossed the state line to make more money.

The solution: A proposed 2014 county sales-tax referendum. The revenue from the quarter-cent tax increase would go largely to augment pay for CMS employees.

The money also would support the Arts & Science Council, the library system and Central Piedmont Community College.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools board member Paul Bailey, the District 6 representative who attended the Breakfast Club meeting, encouraged attendees to support the sales-tax increase.

“The bottom line with me is, we need money,” Bailey said. “I would encourage you to seriously consider supporting the sales tax. It’s definitely needed.”

Morrison also encouraged residents to make sure the money would go where it’s intended if the sales-tax referendum is passed. He said the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners would be in charge of distributing the funds.

“There’s no specific guarantee that money’s not going to supplant down the road and be diluted into another area,” he said.

Morrison encouraged residents to advocate for schools and explain to public officials why it’s needed. “Make sure after a year, the county doesn’t find another need for those revenues,” he said.

CMS will welcome 145,000 students returning to school this month.

Morrison said he wants to see the district continue to evolve this school year to keep up with the rest of the world. He said jobs students will have in the future have yet to be created.

“We know if you have limited skills, if you have a defined set of abilities and skills  … the jobs that used to be there are not going to be there,” he said. “If you have a job that can be easily outsourced or replaced with technology, the jobs won’t be there.”

He described his six goals to make students ready for tomorrow. The list included making sure every student is college and career ready and cultivating more partnerships with families, businesses and faith-based groups.

“The challenge is, in the past, we haven’t always been good about asking for that help,” said Morrison. “We have coordinators now who are going to every school and going deep, and seeing what every school needs.”

Morrison, who greeted the crowd with “Happy New Year” ahead of the new school year, also came to share some positive news from the previous year.

For instance, he said, the district had a successful $290 million bond vote last November, with 74 percent of voters supporting the bond.

The district graduation rate rose to 81.3 percent, said Morrison.

The district also claimed two major school awards: N.C. Teacher of the Year (James Ford) and N.C. PTA Principal of the Year (Chad Thomas).

“We have amazing leaders, great teachers and amazing schools,” said Morrison. “I’m fortunate to be starting my third year.

“Happy new year, and thank you for giving us the privilege to serve your children.”