A new Charlotte-Mecklenburg School bond is on the ballot this fall, and a group of local pastors are advocating people vote against it.
The proposed $2.5 billion school bond includes 30 renovation and school replacement projects in the district.
If passed, it would be the largest bond in Mecklenburg County history, and district officials said community members can expect a property tax hike.
The group consists of 20 local faith leaders across several denominations who believe the bond’s tax increase will negatively impact the city’s historically Black communities.
Ricky Woods, pastor of First Baptist-West Church, said the tax hike would cause the largest Black resident displacement since the Brooklyn neighborhood was demolished for an urban renewal project in the 1960s.
The concern, Woods said, is that residents will vote yes to the bond without realizing the consequences.
“What is so devious is that [they can] get our people to vote on their own demise, and they count on them not knowing,” Woods said.
The group plans to share information with their respective congregations and go to different Black neighborhoods to educate people on the potential effects of the bond.
A market increase
Many homeowners in Mecklenburg County experienced home value increases due to home revaluations earlier this year.
Revaluation is a process required by North Carolina law where all property (land and buildings within Mecklenburg County) is revalued to its current market value. As of Jan. 1 this year, residential home values increased 59%.
The bond will only increase further financial strain on Black homeowners, Woods said.
“You ain’t going to be able to stay,” he said. “You are going to be taxed out.”
Woods’ efforts began in February when he lobbied for school district and county officials to exclude the bond from November’s ballot.
His efforts failed, so he connected with local pastors in July to push the message.
“We are putting stuff in people’s hands, providing the necessary information to know what is going to happen to their community,” he said.
Former superintendent says no
Dennis Williams, pastor of Faith Memorial Baptist Church, has been a key voice in a number of school issues that impact Black and brown students.
The former CMS superintendent is well aware of the district’s previous ties to bonds, having advocated for many of them himself, he said.
Wiliams said he did more research on this current bond and realized that none of the funding would go toward hiring new teachers and school resources.
“It’s not going to do one thing to address our greatest need, and that’s the academic achievement of our students,” he said.
Williams said the district receives enough money from the county to fund building projects. The county allocates budget money for the school district’s capital investment projects, addressing the most pressing needs.
Williams said the bond is unnecessary, and many of the projects on the bond will not be completed. Like Woods, Williams said he believes it is an attempt to displace residents for developers to grab land for monetary gain.
People most at risk of being displaced are seniors, Williams said.
The betterment of the students
In an interview with QCity Metro, Superintendent Crystal Hill didn’t comment on the group’s efforts but said the bond would be beneficial to student safety and their learning experiences.
Many of the school’s buildings are in rough condition, including loose ceiling tiles and leaks.
The bond will help address those issues, she said.
“Would I want that for my children?” she said of the poor building structures. “No, so why would I want that for somebody else’s child?”
QCity Metro reached out to Mecklenburg County for comment, but they declined to respond to the group’s disapproval.