In her proposed budget for fiscal year 2021, County Manager Dena Diorio has asked to spend $2.5 million on programs with a direct goal of reducing racial disparities in Mecklenburg.

The request is part of a $1.9 billion budget proposal that Diorio outlined Friday to county commissioners. The proposal for fiscal year 2021 (which begins July 1) would increase the county’s budget by 0.3% and would not require a hike in property taxes.

Why it matters

Reducing racial disparities is one of five areas of focus that commissioners have identified as long-term spending priorities.

The others are: affordable housing, parks and greenways, mental health, and early childhood education. Together, they account for $65.1 million in spending in the current fiscal year.

To meet the county’s spending goals for 2021, Diorio proposed taking $52 million from the county’s reserve fund, which held $259 million at the start of the current fiscal year. She said the move was necessary to offset revenue losses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Covid effect

As recently as January, the county had projected $46 million in revenue growth for the next fiscal year, most of it projected to come from sales taxes and interest earned on county investments. But after Covid-19 temporarily closed many retail businesses and sent the U.S. economy into recession, the county now projects revenue growth of $19 million.

Diorio said the county’s government is bracing for a “sharp decline” in economic activity for April, May and June, but she added: “We are in a strong position to manage what lies ahead.”

Who gets what

The proposed spending to address racial disparities would include:

  • $1.3 million for the United Way of Central Carolina’s “Unite Charlotte” initiative, which would make grants of $25,000 and $40,000 to local organizations and programs working to remove obstacles to economic mobility.
  • $775,000 to address hunger and food insecurity, including $125,000 to support the Three Sisters Food Market Co-Op, $600,000 for initiatives to address food deserts, and $50,000 to Loaves & Fishes.
  • $150,000 to Young Black Leadership Alliance, which mentors Black youth in Mecklenburg; and $50,000 to Prospera North Carolina, which works with Latina women to advance economic empowerment.
  • $77,000 to hire a full-time project compliance coordinator for the county’s Minority, Women, Small Business Enterprises (MWSBE) program. The coordinator will track data to ensure “equity and access for minority contractors” who bid for Mecklenburg construction contracts.

The bottom line

Commissioners will vote to approve a budget for 2021 on June 2, after a series of meetings and a public hearing.

Visit the county’s website to see other line items in Mecklenburg’s proposed budget.

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