Over breakfast, Mecklenburg and NC legislative officials talk priorities

dperlmutt@charlotteobserver.comApril 28, 2014 

State legislators from Mecklenburg County heard a wide range of priorities Monday that local elected officials hope will be addressed during the upcoming short legislative session in Raleigh.

The General Assembly is set to reconvene May 14, with no end date decided.

At a breakfast meeting, Mecklenburg County commissioners said they’d support legislation that includes: Giving the county greater flexibility in how it spends stormwater fees, reinstating tax credits to property owners who donate land to the county and raising the base pay of all public school teachers.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board wants legislators to make North Carolina the leading Southeastern state for starting teacher pay and commit to moving the state to the national average within four years.

“There’s no reason why North Carolina can't be competitive,” said Jonathan Sink, CMS’ associate general counsel. “We are almost the lowest state – even in the Southeast – for base teacher pay.”

The school board wants the state to honor pay raises for teachers with advanced degrees and provide pay supplements for teachers who earn those degrees in the future. Board members also want the legislature to provide more state funding for three new early and middle college programs: Charlotte STEM Early College, Middle College at Central Piedmont Community College’s Harper campus, and Middle College at CPCC’s Levine campus.

Sink told legislators that students in the schools have earned associate degrees or gotten considerable college credit in curriculum subject matters vastly important to the state.

The county’s court system saw deep cuts during the recent economic downturn, said Todd Nuccio, trial court administrator for the 26th Judicial District.

The system wants the state to unfreeze pay for clerks and magistrates, who represent half the staff but are generally the lowest-paid employees. Nuccio said Mecklenburg needs 29 more magistrates and would like to see technology funding restored.

State Rep. Becky Carney, a Democrat from Charlotte, said much of the short session’s agenda is already set and encouraged Mecklenburg officials to hold these types of meetings more often.

Brian Francis, Mecklenburg’s legislative liaison who presented the county’s priorities to the delegation, said commissioners knew they’d get little approved during the abbreviated session. But it’s an effort “to get the conversation going” for the 2015 session, Francis said.

Perlmutt: 704-358-5061

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