Meck. Co. leaders to vote on proposal to raise teacher salaries

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CHARLOTTE —

Mecklenburg County leaders want people to pay the highest sales tax in the state so local teachers can get a raise.

Commissioners will take an informal vote on the budget Thursday afternoon.

The spending plan would give Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools nearly $27 million more than last year, but teachers want more so they all receive a 3 percent raise.

Commissioners said teachers need to take that up with the state.

Commissioners are working on a plan to hike the tax by a quarter of a penny, but voters will have the final word this November.

Anchor Scott Wickersham spoke with the commissioner spearheading the plan and a business owner who said it would cost her money.

Commissioner Trevor Fuller said he has support from enough Democrats on the board to pass the plan.

The referendum would let voters decide to raise the tax from 7.25 percent to 7.5 percent, putting Mecklenburg County into a three-way tie with Durham and Orange counties for the highest in the state.

Fuller said the increase could raise $34 million per year to help give Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teachers a raise.

“We need a sustainable plan for funding teacher compensation. The state has indicated it’s not going to step up,” Fuller said.

Republican Matt Ridenhour said he worries about tying salaries to something potentially volatile, like sales tax revenue.

“Raising taxes at the end of the worst recession since the ‘30s is unwise and foolhardy,” Ridenhour said.

Book shop owner Sally Brewster said the tax would add to what her customers have to pay and to the perception of higher prices.

“It’s a regressive tax. Those who can least afford it will be paying it,” Brewster said. “So I think it’s more of a burden on the retailers of Charlotte.”

Taxpayers have mixed opinions, saying Mecklenburg County is taxed a lot already but that teachers deserve a raise.

The money would also increase salaries for Central Piedmont Community College workers and raise money for the Arts and Science Council and public library.