GCS Superintendent Thanks Voters Who Supported ¼-Cent Sales Tax

Guilford County Schools Superintendent Maurice “Mo” Green is thanking voters who supported the ¼-cent increase in the local sales tax. Despite record voter turnout in Guilford County, the measure was defeated, with 43 percent “For” the increase and 57 percent “Against.”

Green thanked the Board of Education, community leaders, business partners, parents, students and employees for supporting the proposal, which would have brought in $14 million a year for public schools.

“People across the county supported this measure, which would have made a difference in our classrooms,” Green said. “The final results are disappointing, especially after years of repeated cuts that are having a major impact on our staff and students,” Green said. “However, I am confident that our students, our employees, our district will continue to strive for excellence, despite these challenges.”

Although it is too early to predict how the loss of the ¼-cent sales will impact the district, Green said if current funding trends at the state and local level continue, GCS will likely have to identify further cuts in the 2015-16 budget. Just this year, GCS cut or redirected almost $18 million in an effort to balance the 2014-15 budget.

The district has lost more than $46 million in state funding since 2008, which has led to cuts of more 409 positions, including 186 classroom teachers and 83 assistants, facilitators and other school-based positions. Fewer teachers have meant more overcrowded classrooms and fewer course offerings.

In addition, years of local cuts to capital funds have forced the district to delay critical maintenance projects across GCS, including replacing leaky roofs and aging HVAC systems, as well as cutting regular paint and paving projects, which protect facilities from bigger issues down the road. Facilities employees have identified more than $1 billion in capital needs across the district.

The vote followed budget discussions by the Guilford County Board of Education and Board of County Commissioners, who voted to put the ¼-cent sales tax increase on the ballot. County Commissioners committed to use the money for public education when they voted to put the referendum on the ballot. The Board of Education voted in July to use 60 percent of the funds in the classroom and 40 percent for facility repairs and maintenance.

The sales tax measure had strong community support from businesses and individuals across Guilford County, who donated more than $100,000 to the Quarter Cent for Schools committee, a grassroots citizens’ campaign. The committee was headed by Campaign Coordinator Anita Bachmann and Steering Committee Co-Chairs Odell Cleveland, Chuck Cornelio and Chris Greene, and led community discussion of the district’s needs.

"I want to express sincere appreciation to the hundreds of volunteers who worked tirelessly over the past few months to educate, advocate and support this campaign and public education," Bachmann said. "Many thanks also to the business community, PTAs, civic organizations and other organizations who supported the ¼ Cent for Schools through their financial and advocacy support. The actions of hundreds of individuals across our county showed that public education and our children are a priority. While very disappointed with the results, we must remain vigilant and continue the focus and energy on strengthening public education in Guilford County and our state."

The Guilford County Council of PTAs and many school PTAs endorsed the referendum, as well as the Guilford County Association of Educators and dozens of other individuals, businesses, community and nonprofit groups.