Commissioner questions whether CMS flier on sales tax increase is legal

A Mecklenburg County commissioner says a flier published by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools about the impact of a sales tax increase is improper politicking.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools published a two-page flier that details how the proposed quarter-cent sales tax would affect the district. The flier is available in English and Spanish on the district’s website.

The proposed increase would push Mecklenburg’s sales tax to 7.5 percent, which would be tied with Durham and Orange counties for the highest in the state.

On Saturday, the district tweeted the flier to its more than 15,000 followers, and it was distributed at a high school football game on Friday night. “I think they were trying to market a pro position to the public,” County commissioner Bill James told the Observer on Sunday.

James said he has asked the county attorney to look into whether the school system broke any laws prohibiting government organizations and employees from politicking. “I think it’s pretty clear when you read the document that they’ve got it slanted a certain way.”

“CMS’ projected portion of about $26 (million)-$28 million in annual revenue will be used to enhance salaries for district employees,” the flier says in part. The first page of the flier says the tax hike would make CMS schools more competitive locally and nationally, help make pay raises more equitable, and help more CMS employees make a living wage.

A second page gives details about registering to vote and early voting.

CMS spokeswoman Kathryn Block told the Observer the document “was developed as an informational document only.”

“It provides the public with information about how funds from the sales tax referendum, if approved, could be spent by CMS. It also provides information about the voting process for the November election to inform members of the public should they choose to exercise their civic right to vote.

“There is no reference anywhere in it that tells anyone how to vote,” she said. “It is informational in nature and intent and does not seek to advocate.”

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