The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ ambitious $2.5 billion bond issue proposal has gained significant momentum as two prominent political consultants from Raleigh, Jim Blaine and Morgan Jackson, join the campaign. This move aims to galvanize support for what is poised to become North Carolina’s largest-ever public school bond.
An Alliance for Success
The Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, at the forefront of championing the cause, has enlisted the expertise of Nexus Strategies and The Differentiators. These distinguished firms will play an instrumental role in advocating for this historic initiative.
The Dynamic Duo
Leading the way is Morgan Jackson, a partner at Nexus Strategies and a prominent political advisor, holding key positions such as Chief Political Adviser to Governor Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein. Jackson’s involvement underscores the significance of this bond issue within political circles.
Jim Blaine, head of The Differentiators, brings a wealth of experience as the former Chief of Staff to N.C. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. Notably, he was recently appointed to the UNC Chapel Hill board of trustees. Blaine’s invaluable insights and Republican perspective will add a unique dimension to the campaign.
A Strong Coalition
Douglas Wilson, founder of Alexander Wilson Consulting in Charlotte and former deputy executive director of the N.C. Democratic Party, is another integral member of the campaign team. Together, they will collaborate with the Alliance and its leader, Janet LaBar, to ensure that the children, teachers, and school leaders in the community have the necessary resources for success and safety.
Quality over Quantity
The Alliance’s decision to partner with Jackson and Blaine came after careful consideration. Although bids from renowned firms such as Chernoff Newman and RLF Communications were also evaluated, it was Jackson and Blaine’s proposal that resonated the most. Chernoff Newman and RLF Communications had previously achieved great success as consultants for school bond campaigns in Mecklenburg and Guilford counties, respectively.
An Uphill Battle
While North Carolina has witnessed several successful bond issues in recent years, the size of the CMS campaign presents unique challenges. Mecklenburg County’s commissioners, comprising nine Democrats, voted 5-3 in favor of putting the bond issue to a vote in November. Notably, former CMS board chair Arthur Griffin and veteran at-large commissioner Pat Cotham, who often garners the most votes countywide, opposed the measure. Cotham voiced concerns about potential property tax hikes, asserting that they would disproportionately impact low-income residents. Interestingly, CMS leaders had previously rejected a $1 billion bond issue favored by Cotham.
A Vision for the Future
The $2.5 billion bond earmarked for CMS aims to revitalize and expand the school system, encompassing the construction and renovation of over 20 schools. The cost of a new high school has escalated significantly, with estimates now exceeding $130 million, as reported by the Charlotte Observer. Despite a decline in CMS enrollment to around 141,200 students in the 2022-23 school year from its peak of 147,000 in 2017 and 2018, the county has witnessed the rise of public charter and private schools, experiencing substantial enrollment growth.
A Budgetary Balancing Act
In June, Mecklenburg County passed a budget that anticipated an estimated annual property tax increase of $273, or 17%, for a mid-priced home. These increases will play a pivotal role in repaying the proposed bond package.
As the campaign for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools bond issue gains momentum, it is evident that the Alliance, together with consultants Jim Blaine and Morgan Jackson, is steadfast in its commitment to secure the necessary resources for the betterment of the community. To learn more about this initiative, visit Ratingperson.