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The Voice of the Black Community

Opinion

Why Mecklenburg quarter-cent sales tax hike approval is necessary
It's an investment in arts, education and parks
 
Published Sunday, September 15, 2019
by George Dunlap

PHOTO | JON STRAYHORN
A quarter-cent sales tax referendum, if approved by Mecklenburg County voters in November, would provide funding for the Arts & Science Council, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Mecklenburg Parks and Recreation.

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As Mecklenburg voters consider the upcoming Nov. 5 referendum for a quarter-cent sales tax to fund teacher supplements and classroom support staff, expand our park and recreation programs and enhance arts, science and historical programs – the Board of County Commissioners has developed a governance model for the Arts and Sciences Council that is balanced, equitable and responsible.


It outlines a common-sense approach to how the sales-tax revenue is allocated and who determines how its spent.


In the fiscal year 2020 budget, Mecklenburg County allocates $2 million to the ASC for public arts and cultural programs. This amount helps, but is low considering the size of our community and the far-reaching benefits the arts and cultural sector provides participants and our community.


There is also a severe shortage of County parkland, and considerable unmet educational needs in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.


To meet these critical demands and keep property taxes affordable, the Board looked for new revenue sources. To generate the money, the County Commission approved adding a ballot referendum in November to raise the Mecklenburg County sales tax by .25 cents. If approved by voters, this quarter-cent sales tax would provide approximately $50 million for parks, arts, and education.  


To manage this revenue, the governance plan envisions a three-pronged approach.


Park funds will be distributed by the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department, with an emphasis on obtaining new parkland. Education funding will be allocated by CMS. Funding arts and cultural programs will change the most, with a new focus on equity, citizen leadership, transparency, broad community participation, and accountability.


To accomplish this goal, the ASC will bring diverse groups together and become the designated grants distributor for arts and cultural funding in the county. Allocation will be divided between arts organizations, creative individuals, neighborhood programs, and arts education for PreK-12 students.


The new model envisions a diverse, independent ASC Board with representatives from the arts, culture, parks and education communities.

The new ASC will include county elected officials, county commissioner appointments, city elected officials, city council appointments, and private sector individuals.


In addition to awarding grants, the new ASC Board will establish strategic priorities based on community engagement, and establish a funding request process.

The ASC has been a trusted county and community partner since the 1970’s. Their expertise in investing public dollars has created programs and value across the county for decades. We look forward to seeing how the new board will add value in creative and meaningful ways.

We’re grateful to the ASC for transforming with this new governance model, and to you-the taxpayers and voters-for participating to make this new model successful.

By voting for the referendum, we will transform our community.

By voting for the referendum, we will invest in our students and schools, provide more opportunities for people to enjoy our park and recreation programs, and make sure that arts, science and history programs reach every county neighborhood– lifting spirits and improving our quality of life.

Meeting that challenge requires change.  The new ASC governance model ensures that Mecklenburg County residents’ voices will be heard loud and clear in the allocation of public funds to artists and cultural organizations in a way that is citizen-led, equitable, transparent, accountable and dispersed widely across the entire community.

George Dunlap is chair of the Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners.

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