In Mecklenburg County on Election Day, November 6th, you have the opportunity to vote on three bond packages that are especially important to our future and continuing business success. County commissioners have approved three bond proposals: one for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) for $516 million for school land, building construction and renovation; a second for $35.6 million for the Little Sugar Creek Greenway that includes property, parks and recreation, libraries and water quality conservation; and a third for $30 million for Central Piedmont Community College to continue its building renovation and construction in line with its growth and maintenance plans.
Without any reservations, I encourage you to vote yes on all three bonds. Let’s take a look at them more closely.
First, county commissioners unanimously approved the $516 million bond for CMS school renovations and new construction. While this is less than proposed by the CMS board for $617 million, it is more than the $427 million that voters rejected in a bond proposal in 2005. Certainly, many things have changed since that vote was taken. CMS has grown to more than 16,325 employees and over 129,000 students. We have a new superintendent, Dr. Peter Gorman, who has aggressively taken the helm of CMS with a budget that is now over $1.05 billion. In the last year, he has worked hard to listen to all the different and divergent opinions within this community, and, with the help of the school board, he has implemented many of the recommendations of the 2005 Citizens Task Force and set out his own objectives for improving the school performance within the system.
With over 5,000 new students each year and 50,000 new students over the next 10 years, Dr. Gorman projects budgetary needs for over $2.5 billion for construction and renovation over that same period. This 2007 bond package is simply a down payment on our future. We have too many students packed in too few schools with too many modular trailers for classrooms. To improve student performance, we need sufficient school space and classrooms to provide them with safe, secure, healthy environments to learn and grow. If Wake County can pass a bond package of $970 million for its schools, Mecklenburg County voters can surely pass one for $516 million.
Second, county commissioners approved a bond package of $35.6 million for the Little Sugar Creek Greenway. It is high time that this community gets serious about adding parks and recreation space for county residents and its visitors. While many in the past have called Charlotte the “city of trees,” the recent growth in housing and development without attention to parks and recreation is alarming. Acknowledging this, the Little Sugar Creek Greenway was recently ‘uncapped’ between Baxter and Morehead. This bond money will be used to purchase more land to further develop parks and recreational spaces in line with the Little Sugar Creek Greenway running from the city to the South Carolina border.
Third, the county commissioners approved a $30 million bond package for Central Piedmont Community College. This money is needed to simply continue the building and renovation plan that CPCC has been implementing to expand and upgrade its facilities given the demand in this region for its services. Despite challenges to community college funding on the state level to Mecklenburg County, CPCC has ramped up their plans to accommodate the needs of more than 70,000 students within their system. CPCC students are preparing for university training, for their first jobs and, increasingly, transitioning to new jobs. It is essential to continue expanding CPCC as well as other community colleges in this region. They are vital partners to our business success.
We need these bonds to maintain the quality of life in this community and to keep our families and our employees safe, healthy and well-educated. I encourage you to vote “YES” on all three bond proposals!