Your elected officials will soon decide how to spend billions of your tax dollars for the fiscal year 2024, and you now have a chance to weigh in with your thoughts.
The next fiscal year begins July 1, 2023, so now is the time when officials debate which agencies need more or less funding, and how much money should be dedicated to various projects. Last fiscal year, county commissioners approved a budget of $2.2 billion.
The county is holding workshops, both in-person and virtual, to hear what priorities residents may have. Do you think the county should build more parks or fund more programs? Do public schools need more county money? Or how about spending more money to address health care disparities, such as boosting access to prenatal care to reduce infant mortality?
This is your opportunity to let your elected leaders know what you think and to elevate the programs you believe deserve more funding.
Residents can also share their opinions by taking the community survey.
Mecklenburg County has identified six priority areas. Here’s a primer on what those priorities are and how they may impact you.
The rent is too damned high!
Affordable housing has been on many residents’ radar for years. Charlotte is one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities. But as our population has grown, so has the cost of renting or buying a home.
The city estimates that more than 55,000 residents don’t have an affordable place to live. That’s enough people to fill Bank of America Stadium three-quarters full.
The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte hit $1,314 in February, according to Apartment List. That’s up nearly 6 percent from a year ago.
It’s not only renters who are being squeezed. Growth has made the county more expensive for homeowners, too, mainly through higher property taxes.
In the fiscal year 2023, the county approved the spending of more than $12 million on affordable-housing initiatives. The county gives money to a variety of programs that aim to tackle the issue, including rent subsidies, emergency shelter services, and programs that help homeowners retain their homes.
I want my kid to go to college
Charlotte-Mecklenburg students lost significant ground in math and reading skills during the COVID pandemic. Some lost more ground than others.
Mecklenburg County wants to improve college- and career-readiness outcomes for all students and close the education attainment gap. The county has another priority that ties into young people’s potential for the future: Investment in voluntary, universal public pre-Kindergarten for 4-year-olds.
In the fiscal year 2023, the county budget allocated more than $909 million for education and literacy, including more than $13.2 million to specifically reduce educational attainment gaps and more than $23 million for the Meck Pre-K programs to serve 1,890 children.
More parks or parking lots?
In 2021, Mecklenburg County adopted an Environmental Leadership Policy and Action Plan, which requires the county to work toward environmental justice and equal enforcement of environmental laws for all residents, particularly those in historically marginalized communities.
Ensuring environmental justice can be complex. For example, climate change affects communities differently, and neighborhoods often have unequal access to parks, trails and green spaces. In years past, the county has dedicated money to acquiring land, installing rooftop solar panels, buying electric vehicles, and stopping invasive species from growing. If you want a say in how the county ensures your drinking water is clean and available land is preserved or developed, then now is your chance to speak up.
I need a job that won’t disappear as technology evolves
Workforce development aims to ensure that county residents have the training and skills they need to earn a decent wage, while meeting the ever-evolving needs of employers. Historically, Mecklenburg County has spent money on a variety of programs, including those that:
● Train women reentering the workforce
● Provide career counseling and resume services
● Train military veterans
● Prepare people for careers in STEM
● Offer training in various trades
● Connect non-custodial fathers who help with child support to job opportunities and parenting skills
● Help people who have struggled to find employment, such as those with chronic homelessness or a history of mental health illness
● Provide business training programs to aspiring entrepreneurs of color
Which of those programs should continue to get funding, or even an increase? Those are the kinds of decisions your elected officials will soon be making.
Who should get some of the $5 million dedicated to combat racial disparities?
Mecklenburg County has dedicated $5 million to combat racial inequities. How should the county spend that money? You can have a say as your elected officials decide how best to address racial disparities.
It’s easy to think your voice won’t matter in a county of 1.1 million people.
But consider this: The Meck Pre-K program came about after a task force identified a need for early care and education. When Charlotte scored low on an economic-mobility index, a countywide poll was commissioned, and nearly 90 percent of respondents expressed support for expanding access to high-quality early care and education programs, and 71% of respondents said they would be willing to pay $20 more in taxes each month to increase access. This support from the public helped make Meck Pre-K a reality.
Want to attend a workshop?
Mecklenburg County is holding a series of workshops so that residents can participate in the annual budgeting process. Find one that suits your location and schedule.
March 1 at 6:30 p.m.: Hickory Grove Rec Center (6709 Pence Road, Charlotte)
March 8 at 6:30 p.m.: Naomi Drenan Recreation Center (750 Beal Street, Charlotte)
March 15 at 6:30 p.m.: Matthews Sportsplex (2425 Sports Parkway, Matthews)
March 18 at 11 a.m.: A virtual workshop. (A link will be posted on the budget.mecknc.gov website and emailed two days in advance to those who register.)