Friday, January 28, 2011

CMS Board: We want taxing authority...

This got lost amid the emotion and drama of budget woes at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg board of education meeting Tuesday, but another controversial subject came up: taxing authority. And most CMS board members seemed in favor - with some conditions.

The proposal was on the legislative agenda the school system's lawyer, George Battle, unveiled. It is a working document based on conversations he had with school board members about what they would like N.C. lawmakers to do this session. Most of the items were fuzzes or obvious: adequate education funding and flexibility, "elevating and enhancing teaching through reforms" (this related to Superintendent Peter Gorman's pay for performance ideas), flexibility in tackling needs of low-performing schools.

But there was no ambiguity about taxing authority. The General Assembly would have to grant CMS and any other school district in the state the right to tax citizens. It's come before N.C. lawmakers before. But so far, lawmakers have been in favor of it. It's highly unlikely they will this time, with Republicans in charge.

But school board members say the idea has merit because, as board chair Eric Davis said, it "provides clear accountability." Meaning that the school system can ask the voters directly for funds to support school needs and voters can express their opinion about whether that money was used wisely at election time. Right now, the county commissioners supply local money for schools and tax citizens for those and other needs. And they get to decide what's adequate, not the school board.

Davis and other school board members, including Kaye McGarry, said they'd consider taxing authority if the terms for board members were reduced to two years instead of four. That would give voters a better leash on board members because they could vote members out quicker if they're dissatisfied.

Davis also said he'd consider it only if city and county consolidation occurred. That way citizens would not be getting a third taxing authority. There would still be only two. That's the view of Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx too. He's been at the forefront of a consolidation push.

The school board's legislative agenda is still being shaped. More discussion is to come at the next board meeting.


Redlight said...

If there is one thing we don't need, it's for another group to have taxing authority!