Mecklenburg County Passes $2.2B Budget for FY2023
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will get more money, but not its full ask
The Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners passed its $2.2 billion budget on Wednesday for Fiscal Year 2023, which begins July 1.
Despite the spending plan being $145 million more than last year’s, homeowners will not see their property taxes go up.
Highlights of the budget include:
- $558 million toward Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools operating expenses, plus $10 million as a one-time fund for preventative maintenance
- $52 million on environmental efforts, such as land acquisition
- $46.9 million for Central Piedmont Community College — an increase of 8.2% over FY2022
- $12.7 million for affordable housing, including the Billingsley mixed-income housing development in Grier Heights
- $3.6 million for Mecklenburg’s EMS agency, Medic, to address turnover, recruitment and reliance on overtime
- 5% raises for county employees, plus increasing the county’s minimum wage to $20 per hour
- $2.7 million in retention bonuses for employees at the Mecklenburg County Detention Center in Uptown, plus funding to increase shift differential pay, taser replacement and facility maintenance
- $250,000 for the Mint Museum’s upcoming Pablo Picasso exhibit
The county is also dedicating $3 million for projects recommended directly by residents through a participatory budgeting pilot program called PB Meck. Residents in each district can vote on a variety of projects through June 24 with the top projects funded in the budget.
The most contentious expenditure of the budget was the county’s contribution to CMS, which despite being $30 million more than last year, ultimately fell short of the school district’s initial ask.
CMS originally requested Mecklenburg County to kick in $579 million toward its operating budget for the 2022-23 school year, which is $40 million more than last year. Leaders said part of the additional funds would go toward expenses the district has no choice but to pay for, such as charter school funding and retirement benefits. The rest would go toward pay increases for teachers, principals, certified staff and teacher assistants, as well as other expenses.
However, County Manager Dena Diorio only allocated an extra $20 million, half of the district’s additional ask, in the budget she presented the following week.
At the time, county staff said the total would still be enough for CMS to accomplish its goals, despite not covering all of the proposed raises and giving the school district half the supplement increase it asked for to help bolster paychecks.
Several parents, teachers and education advocates disagreed and urged the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners during a public hearing on May 25 to support the school system’s full request, citing the need for increased teacher pay.
Diorio has defended her recommendation throughout the budgeting process, saying CMS could use lapse salaries to fund raises instead of maintenance.
“They’re making decisions about how those dollars get spent and so that doesn’t necessarily mean that Mecklenburg County has to make up for that,” Diorio said during a budget workshop on May 24.
The controversy ultimately resulted in commissioners voting to add $10 million to the school district’s budget during their straw votes session last week, though it’s only a one-time fund for preventative maintenance.
Commissioners who voted in favor of the increase believe allocating the funds for maintenance will free up money for CMS to use on teacher pay, but there are district leaders and school board members who argue that’s not how it works.
“This type of funding is used for programs and ‘things,’ rather than ongoing expenses like salaries for teacher assistants,” CMS board Chair Elyse Dashew wrote in an email to The Charlotte Observer.
The full county budget can be viewed on the Mecklenburg County website.
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