County leaders can't avoid using taxpayer dollars to fund early childhood education

County leaders can't avoid using taxpayer dollars to fund for early childhood education

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Raising property taxes to fund early childhood education is a county plan that is one step away from reality.

Mecklenburg County commissioners spent six hours Tuesday trying to figure out how to pay for it without charging taxpayers, but in the end, voted in favor of the county manager's hike.

It would bring in $9.6 million to fund early childhood education.

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Commissioners said they have no choice but to raise taxes.

Many commissioners were against raising taxes to fund a $1.7 billion budget, but most said it couldn’t be avoided.

“The year before a re-evaluation is not the time to increase taxes when we anticipate assessed values

will be 30-35 percent increase over the last evaluation,” Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour said.

County Manager Dena Diorio recommended a three-fourths percent property tax hike, $56 per month on homes valued at $250,000.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools also requested $6.8 million to increase supplement pay for teachers and certified staff.

Commissioners approved that $6.8 million, pulling it from about $11 million set aside for unfilled county positions.

Some wanted to use the rest of that money to offset the tax hike, but the county manager cautioned against using it at all.

"It's a nonrecurring source of revenue, so you can carry it forward and fund in '19, but in '20, we have to find another source of revenue because it doesn't recur,” Diorio said.

“Every year we underestimate projected revenue from property taxes,” Ridenhour said.

But most agreed that wouldn't help meet the goal of funding pre-kindergarten.

"You cannot do it without a very small property tax increase,” Commissioner Dumont Clark said.

Charlotte residents are facing another tax hike from the city.

There will be a 1-cent property tax increase, which means about $25 more a year for someone who owns a home valued at $250,000.