CMS votes 8-1 in favor for sales tax hike discussion

by: Paige Hansen Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - CMS votes 8-1 in favor for sales tax hike discussion
 
The Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board on Tuesday discussed a sales tax hike proposed by Mecklenburg County for the first time. The decision was 8-1 for it with only district one board member, Rhonda Lennon, saying she thinks voters are taxed enough already.
 
Several CMS teachers told the board why the quarter-cent sales tax hike proposed by Mecklenburg County Commissioners is so important.
 
If passed, the county said the tax hike would generate an extra $34 million, much of which would pay for teacher raises.
 
"We are passing the buck instead of finding the money within the county budget," Lennon said. "They've passed the buck to the taxpayers and put their hand out for more."
 
But, most board members said now is the time to start appealing to voters who will have the ultimate decision on whether this tax hike goes through.
 
"This referendum is all the hope your employees have out there because the state budget is not sustainable," one CMS teacher said at the meeting.
 
While the board supports the plan, many members said Tuesday they wished the county included them in discussions about the plan.
 
"And while that's challenging, we have to acknowledge the gift that is this referendum," Ericka Ellis-Stewart, the BOE at-large representative said.
 
The Board of Education doesn't have power to raise its own money and relies on federal, state and local governments for funding.
 
Some said this is the only option to help raise pay for teachers.
 
"This is important for us to now make sure we can do our part to get this passed," Tom Tate, District-4 board member said.
 
There are concerns including whether the money raised from the increased sales tax would always go to fund teachers.
 
The state's budget gives teachers a raise, some about a 1 percent while others up to 18 percent, depending on how long they have been teaching.
 
The money would supplement state-level raises. Voters will vote on the issue in November.