McCray joined a list of elected and civic leaders who say they were caught off-guard when they weren't consulted before commissioners Chairman
She said she didn't know about the effort until she read about it in a newspaper article after a
"We were not at the table as a board during the planning stages, and we would have liked to have been able to help build a community consensus," said McCray, whose board endorsed the nonbinding referendum 8-1.
Historically, referendums stand a better chance with a unified front, since ultimately, voters will decide.
"It's not a new conversation here," said commissioner
State legislators from
Fuller acknowledges he would have liked to have had more discussion before the vote.
"I would have preferred that we could have gone around the whole community and had a conversation about all of this," he said. "But my concern was we didn't have the time."
The commissioners meet only once in July and once in August, he said, and there was a deadline to direct the elections board to put the referendum on the ballot.
The idea of raising the sales tax for teachers had been floated in the public weeks before the county commissioners' vote.
Clarke in early May told an education forum on teacher pay raises that a referendum was possible. He said the language on the ballot couldn't specify what the money would be used for, but commissioners could make it clear to the public what revenues from the extra tax would be used for.
Commissioners did pass a resolution specifying that 80 percent would go to pay raises for CMS employees; 7.5 percent to do the same at
And when CMS leaders began lobbying commissioners to help raise teacher pay, commissioners alerted them that a sales tax referendum was an option, school board Chair McCray said.
"We knew there was a possibility for it," she said.
Fuller said the referendum became a more serious option in early May when teachers, principals and public school advocates began to pack commissioners meetings to push for pay raises.
By then, state lawmakers were in a deadlock over teacher compensation that continued until earlier this month.
Twelve days after Diorio's recommendations, Fuller and Clarke went public with their pursuit of a referendum -- beginning a public discussion that has drawn support and criticism.
They touted it as a "sustainable" way to generate money for all four organizations, though a future board could change the policy and direct the money to different groups.
Fuller acknowledges that another board could reroute the funding, but it "would have to do it in public and that is hard." He's argued that the county has only two other options to supplement teacher pay at the
Fuller said the effort "didn't necessarily come out of the blue."
"It's not exactly correct that we didn't talk to anybody," he said. "It is fair to say it wasn't the kind of conversation that perhaps has been had with other similar efforts."
Fuller and Clarke knew the issue would draw controversy. In 2010, commissioner
It died after Dunlap's motion got no second.
Some of the criticism came from state Sen.
Fuller said commissioners didn't need to get permission from legislators, who in 2007 gave counties authority to hold a quarter-cent referendum.
Two weeks ago, the Charlotte Chamber dove into the discussion, saying it wouldn't fund or direct a campaign to win approval. Yet chamber leaders said the organization's executive committee could ultimately endorse the referendum. The group plans to run a campaign for the city of Charlotte's
The county referendum has won support from the school board, local teachers organizations, MeckED and on Sunday, the local
The effort was nearly derailed after state senators tried to cap the local sales tax rate statewide at
For Fuller, determined to let voters decide the issue in November, the extension makes no difference.
"Either the legislature could take it away next year or something else could happen to keep us from being able to take advantage of this," he said. "If we ignore and don't do anything about keeping
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