What if $0.10 is the right amount?

There doesn't seem to be any perfect solution for the funding woes of the Orange County Schools. Is a special district tax “unfair and divisive”? Is it an unnecessary burden on farmers?

IMHO, supporting the district tax referendum is an important opportunity to send our county commissioners a message that Orange County School District residents want more funding for our schools. However, I haven't been willing to say that it's the "best" solution for increasing funding.

After the discussion at last week's referendum information forum, I was left wondering: What if $0.10 in additional funding is the right amount?

I think the majority of Orange County Schools residents support increased funding for our schools. Most are even willing to pay a little more than what they do now. But, I don't think most residents are willing to pay a tax rate of over $1.00. To achieve equity with Chapel Hill, that's what would be required.

If we're not going to have funding equity or merger, what is the right balance between increased funding and increased taxes? If the district received the maximum increase allowable through the district tax, it would generate about $4.27 million. That's an increase in funding of more than 20% over this year's county allocation. It would also narrow the county's funding gap between OCS and CHCCS by about 50%.

Public policy is the art of finding pragmatic solutions to complex problems. What if $0.10 is the pragmatic solution?

Issues: 

Total votes: 195

Comments

Graig,

Do you consider narrowing the funding gap as pragmatic? Seems a little defeatist to me. Pragmatism would be warranted if all other options had been explored and discounted, but personally I don't think that has happened yet. Why should OCS accept anything less that financial parity?

Terri,

I hate to repeat our discussion of last week, but again you seem to imply that there should be some way to equalize funding that would not result in big tax increases for OCS residents or big funding cuts for CHCCS. Many smart people have been thinking about this, agonizing over this, for a lot of years, and I find it hard to believe that such a solution has been overlooked.

I think the OCS district tax vote provides a way forward that is grounded in the fiscal realities.

I would hope all who live in the county school district give strong consideration to supporting the OCS district tax tomorrow. While it may not be the "perfect" solution, we have been offered a choice: increased funding provided by a district tax or no increased funding. A tax as "high" as 4 cents per hundred would cost someone with a $150,000 house $5 a month! For the price of a meal for one at Breadman's per family per month, the system could hire 30 new teachers, 3 per school. This would give my younger daughters elementary school (Grady Brown) a Reading Recovery teacher to help kids who come in with less exposure to school skills catch up, a fulltime AG teacher and a second Spanish teacher. My older daughter's middle school could fund an afterschool program that paid teachers to tutor students doing poorly, preventing them from failing.

I do not think that $5 per month is going to hurt anyone but the poorest county residents. Will it lead to funding equity? No. Will it help students succeed? Yes!

Graig's website has a lot of other ifnormation about the issues--please take a look.

www.fororangeschools.org

Won't this simply institutionalize the disparity? If it's defeated, how do we know what OC voters are saying "no" to? Maybe it's defeated because of OC parents' commitment to real equality.

Something may be better than nothing, but it isn't for the political cause. Those who argued for equality in funding weren't looking for a "three-fifths" solution. Our kids aren't three-fifths of a student.

You don't kick a field goal when you're down by 8 points, even though it would mean that you're losing by less. You go for the touchdown and conversion. It's the only way to tie the game.

P.S. Has anyone given thought to having a school district in Somewhere-Else, USA over next summer and perform a top-down budget audit on both Orange and Chapel Hill Schools? They'd have no stake in the outcome, expect to earn a consulting fee and we'd get an honest review of where all this loot is going.

Just a thought.

Jean,

Nice analogy. Unfortunately, a field-goal fake is an impossibility at the polls today. But to build on your analogy -- the clock never runs out in this game. A field goal in easy range on 4th down is much better than putting the QB's knee down on, which is why almost everyone takes the field goal on 4th-and-5 in the second quarter....

If OCS voters sit on the ball instead of taking the field goal, the spectators (CHCSS voters) might decide you all aren't fun to watch or play with, and you'll lose their potential ticket sales and concessions revenues.

When the referendum is defeated today, we'll know that the most vocal pro-merger people failed, not just to convince OCS voters to pay more for schools, but even to try.

Personally, I'm very sympathetic to OCS residents who want higher taxes for higher funding. I'm even sympathetic to the argument for reducing overhead with one single administration (outweighed by busing concerns, in my opinion).

Or I used to be. This campaign against a district tax highlights fundamental differences in the two systems, and gives wind to the sails of CHCSS voters who want to continue in the tradition of autonomous higher taxes, for which CHCSS seceded in the first place during the Depression.

(Sorry for the mixed metaphor -- when CHCSS voters left the football game, they went sailing with John Kerry).

Jeff

I don't think we will know what a "no" vote means today. It could mean that OCS residents don't want to pay more for education; it could mean they want a funding mechanism other than an additional tax; it could mean they are not willing to settle for less than equivalent funding to CHCCS. That's the problem with this referendum; there's no way to know what the outcome really means and there hasn't been enough of an informed discussion (since the most vocal advocates on the two sides disagree with virtually every claim made by the other side) to use this vote for setting informed policy. This was my argument against the business owner survey on wireless. Process counts, a lot. In research we call the process methodology, the basis for making claims of reliability and validity of the data. Without a plan for how to interpret the data, no claims can be made and thus any policy derived from that data is highly questionable.

Jean,

"Won't this simply institutionalize the disparity?"

No, it won't. The cap could always be raised at a later date, or ad valorem could be used for additional supplement. If it were clear that the majority of OCS residents want "real equality" in taxation and funding, then this vote would not be necessary. The commisioners could immediately increase OCS district area taxes by about $.22 per $100 valuation, and OCS schools would be funded to CHCCS levels. Just for reference, that would increase overall property taxes for Hillsborough residents by about 15%.

It's very doubtful that OCS residents would support that kind of tax increase, and sadly, I think they'll defeat the referendum for a potential increase of only half that much.

I see this tax and referendum as a start to solving the funding problems in OCS. For several years, while merger was being hotly debated, nothing was done to increase funding to OCS. Even when Alice Gordon proposed a 4% advalorem tax increase, the rest of the commissioners did not even second the motion for debate and/or a vote. (Please note that Val Foushee was not on the BOCC at the time) With that tax, OCS would have gotten an additional $2,000,000 but instead they got NOTHING! Pro merger folks said that tax was too small but would'nt the schools have been better off with those additional funds? Approving the OCS special district tax will start the ball rolling but not approving it will bring the discussion to a screeching halt (IMHO)

Terri,
I agree with you completely. Personally,I think it's the hard line pro-merger crowd who will turn out and shoot this down in substantial proportions.

Right now (just before 8:00) it's running about 8-1 against.

Terri,

I severely doubt that the OCS voters are trying to send a message that they'd rather pay c.21 cents on the $100 than a mere $10. (The other cent would be a transfer from current CHCSS district, because it has a just slightly higher ratio of property value to school children.) Who was out there putting it that baldly to voters? Were Carey & certain OCS Board people saying, please vote this down so we can raise your taxes by the 21 cents instead? I challenge anyone to find such a blunt representation of the issue to voters by an elected politician in favor of merger.

Any newspaper people out there -- how about commissioning or conducting a poll of OCS voters (the ones on record as turning out today)? "Chapel Hill-Carrboro taxpayers pay an extra $220 per $100,000 of property value. (1) What do you think the current OCS tax rate is by comparison? (2) How much should it be? (a) zero, (b) more than zero and less than $220, (c) $220, the same as CHCSS, or (d) more than $220?"

Still, such a poll would count a lot less than today's polling. OCS voters spoke against a tax increase. You can speak Kerry-ese and be for it and against it at the same time. But that stretches credulity too far.

correction: ".... than a mere 10 cents ...."

Highest voter turnout was in the county.

The fact is, they voted it down because the existing Orange County School system is FINE AS IT IS!!!!

They have a much better understanding of what is really necessary to educate a child, as compared to CHCCS.

That's one voice for (2)(a), and here on OP, no less.

It's clearly a mandate...but for what? Merger, more than $.10, or no increased taxes at all?

Anyone who cared enough to pay attention knows that the commissioners stated very clearly the intent of this vote. They used it to gauge the willingness of OCS residents to pay more for schools. They would have prefered to ask the question more directly, but their legal options were very limited.

One can surmise that OCS residents overwhelming defeated the referendum because...
1) they prefer lower taxes and no additional school funding, or
2) they don't care enough about school funding to read what the commissioners have said about the vote.

In either case, the vote highlights the division in values between residents in OCS and CHCCS and supports the continued independence of taxation and funding systems.

I think it's quite a bit more complicated than that. It has as much to do with why so many rural Orange citizens pull for Duke, a school of rich northerners, as it does with school funding.

The merger issue was laid down heavy-handedly. The rural citizenery has always clung to control over their school system because it's the only thing they have democratic control over. The financial underpinnings of education are murky at best. Rural citizens are less moneyed than the urban folks and more sensitive to higher taxes. Add in the fact that many OC School Board voiced opposition, albeit for somewhat esoteric and difficult to immediately fathom reasons, and you have people voting against the tax for a myriad of issues. I think it was a poor strategy that just adds to the confusion around this issue and rural-urban relations.

Charlie,
Gee, I thought I was paying attention. However...

The commissioners can have a clear intent, but the voters might have other motivations. It is quite possible that someone who wants merger would vote no because an OCS district tax would take the pressure off the commissioners to merge. It is quite possible that someone who will only support funding parity would vote no because this measure falls short of that. And it is possible that a no vote meant the voter thought the current funding level was just fine as is.

My comment about a mandate was tongue-in-cheek. You can't make a conclusion about this vote because the issue is more complicated than what was (and perhaps what could be) framed in this referendum.

The astute politicos will notice that the precinct that voted most heavily against the school tax - Caldwell at more than 10 to 1 AGAINST - also voted the most heavily for Bush versus Kerry in 04.
Reasonable people, and politicians who have aspirations for higher office and recently lost to Faisson will know what the result means.

There is no to little support for more taxes for education.
Only someone who is self delusional will say the measure failed because the tax wasn't high enough.

The sad part is that low voter turnout would have been the perfect time to get a tax hike approved. However, the few school board members in OC who support taxes were too cowardly to even try.

Check out the Caldwell voting patterns in 04 for Bush and the district tax results...it's quite crystal clear.

School board member Liz Brown's legacy will be more republican school board members on the county board than before she started (one -copeland) to 3 or 4 when she leaves. Many people who otherwise might support some of the "equality" arguments are burning out from all the spinning and disinformation put out by this contingent.

It's too bad there are no sincere pro-tax people in OC. The amount of intellectual dishonesty by some of the school board in OC is astounding. Look for more copelands on the school board each term.

Oh cut the sophisticated analysis. The school tax
failed 79-21. 79-21! Clearly the people of the county district are satisfied with the current level of spending for
their schools.

It now remains for the county school board and staff
to provide the best education they can with the
current level of funding.

That's the problem, though, Joe ... nothing is "clear."

The very first impression I had about the referendum was that it couldn't do what everyone seems to want ... it couldn't ask voters "do you want merger?" A "no" vote on that ballot was as likely to come from a self-described liberal as it was from a conservative. When Randy Copeland and Liz Brown followers are voting passionately the same way on a tax issue, the question is faulty.

This issue falls right back where it belongs -- with the commissioners. I was at meetings 15 years ago, when my younger son was in diapers, where the discussion of merger always ended with "we all know it will happen eventually ..."

Rob graduates from Cedar Ridge this spring. I guess "eventually" is a really, really long time. Should such issues sit neglected and pass by an entire generation of our children? Can I promise som reasonable outcome for my grandchildren?

If left to Bob Bateman and the Randy Copeland crowd, Cedar Ridge would never have been built. The commissioners simply must put their own political futures on the table (as Moses did) and do the right thing for the county's fiscal future.

Jean: "A “no” vote on that ballot was as likely to come from a self-described liberal as it was from a conservative."

That's simply your assertion. It might look that way from your circles of people that got more house for their money by buying in lower-tax OCS, though they might have liked CHCSS. (My own parents made a similar choice in 1978, toward Durham, and I enjoyed those schools.) I doubt it looks that way across the OCS.

My hunch is that some of the people who think and voted like you were afraid of a solid tax rejection in any case. The best cover-up for that was this convoluted pro-merger anti-tax vote you all came up with.

For once, Joe C and I strongly agree on something local.

Jeff says the Chapel Hill schools seceded from the County during the depression to get a tax supplement and higher funding.

Actually, the Chapel Hill school supplement was legislated in 1909, to be not less than 25 cents and not more than 33 1/3 cents, to be decided annually by the Chapel Hill Board of Aldermen. That same legislation created the school district (referring to one of the boundaries as "College Avenue in Chapel Hill", wonder what street that is now?)
It was not until 1949 that the power to set the exact amount of the levy was transferred from the Chapel Hill Board of Aldermen to the Orange County Board of Commissioners. What DID happen during the depression was due to the collapse of local government finance that the General Assembly abolished temporarily all special charter school districts and made them come back to the state board of education for rechartering, often with different boundaries and different rules for the tax supplements.

Well Jeff, there's the problem in a nutshell ... my assertion vs. your hunch.

I don't pretend to know what the heck this vote means, except that it leaves me with many more questions than answers.

As for where I live and the school district ... We deliberately chose to move away from the city of Durham and into the Orange County district which had a good reputation at the time -- both for value and quality.

Joe, this analysis isn't so sophisticated. And it's not even mine.

If a no vote were clearly against any additional funding at all, perhaps you and Jeff can explain why no one on the OCS board publicly supported the referendum? Don't they want more money for their schools?

You also might review the CHN article found here. First the board members' stance:

Hough and the other school board members spoke out against the referendum before the Orange County Board of Commissioners voted in August to put it on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Instead of a district tax, they wanted the commissioners to raise the countywide property tax and lower the special district tax for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools in order to reduce the funding difference between the two school systems.

Fellow board member Liz Brown supports that, too. She says a penny on a special district tax would bring in far fewer dollars than a penny on the countywide ad valorem property tax because of the school district's smaller tax base.

Liz states the contradictory nature of this referendum here:

That leaves voters like Brown with a dilemma.

"If I vote no, the commissioners will think that means I don't want more money for our schools," she said, "or the commissioners will think I don't want to pay more taxes for our schools."

Ed -

You should read the News of Orange if you want to have other viewpoints .

I personally have a hard time believing that precincts that were landslides for Bush in 2004 were 90% against this tax because this tax wasn't liberal enough for them.

http://www.co.orange.nc.us/elect/november2004/precinct.htm

Kerry Bush
Caldwell 351 773

Caldwell for Tax 23 Against tax 343
Efland 23 235

Hillsborough Kerry 196 Bush 115
Hillsborough for tax 118 against 183

from the News of Orange

Randy Copeland, chairman of the Orange County School Board, said the vote was a long-overdue opportunity for citizens to vote on the issue.

“It looks like the people of the county have finally gotten their say-so on this,” he said. “They're saying, ‘our taxes are high enough; find another way.'”

Ed,

"explain why no one on the OCS board publicly supported the referendum?"

I believe they didn't support the referendum because they knew it was a lost cause from the start. They knew that their only hope for increased funding was to continue to advocate for county-wide funding schemes that would force the CHCCS area majority to decide taxation and funding levels for the OCS minority.

Don't forget that Liz Brown, Libbie Hough, et al were against Alice Gordon's 4% advalorem increase in 2004 saying it wasn't enough. They wanted merger or nothing. Be careful what you wish for!

JB,
Is that a CHN viewpoint? I believe they were stating facts. Or did some OCS board members openly support the referendum? I don't think you're addressing my point just by saying read another paper.

I suppose one can see this as a liberal/conservative or Democrat/Republican issue. I think there's more to it than that. And your statistics could be read that way. Bush won by 2 to 1 in Caldwell, but the OCS district tax was defeated 15 to 1. Now, wouldn't that indicate that quite a few Kerry supporters voted against this referendum? Quite a few. And I think that's because there were other reasons, stated above, to be against it, other than being satisfied with the status quo.

Charlie,
We're singing from the same songbook. That is my point entirely: a no vote did not necessarily mean a vote against more money for the schools.

Ed- It could also mean that GW was such a bad president that even conservatives voted against him who knows..

that's not really the point.. the point... for some of the OCS board people quoted in the paper saying the tax wasn't high enough and that is why it would fail is plain silly.

I think a lot of the CHCCS parents are getting burned out on the OCS minority contingent playing games. IF they had a countwide vote a lot of CHCCS parents would be tempted to sit it out just as some of the OCS school board members did..

I still can't believe an elected member of a governmental body advocated for citizens NOT to vote.

Ed if this is the question I didn't answer...

“explain why no one on the OCS board publicly supported the referendum?”

I agree with Charlie... It was clear it would lose from the start so salvage your political chances to get re-elected and be against it from the start.

That's fairly obvious,,, the logic of ..Oh you won't support a 10 cent tax that you have control over,, why not try a mandatory 20 cent tax.. makes no sense..

Every tax increase that I'm aware of has always been voted down in the county. The last bond referenda passed only because chapel hill and carrboro carried them over the county objections.

Ed,

The pro-merger people on the OCS Board didn't support the tax because ... it's a tax and they're politicians. They want the money for OCS, but they want someone else to take the political risks for the taxes.

If they were willing to push funding parity, they would have put a 21-cent tax on the ballot this fall, instead of having the Commissioners force half that amount on the ballot.

There are only so many ways to say this. The office-holders on the OCS Board have it in their power to put a funding referendum on the ballot, and to make it clear in the press that they see that referendum as a referendum on merger overall. They haven't done it. Not even close. Instead we get a lot of hocus-pocus about why they're against taxes-funding while they're for it, about how it's the process that matters, etc.

Instead, I expect them to keep running campaigns in OCS effectively calling on Chapel Hill to give them more money. As has been explained, very little of that would happen under merger. And the OCS pro-merger leaders know that, or they should, and their constituents' statements to the contrary show uninspired political leadership on this issue.

If you think the OCS voters would approve 21-cents + merger in the next five years (at least), let's go to Vegas and do business.

Ed,

"That is my point entirely: a no vote did not necessarily mean a vote against more money for the schools."

I have been misconstrued. To clarify, I believe that only a very small number of people could be counted among those who both support more school funding AND voted against the referendum. I believe that those in that category, including some members of the OCS board, have a strategy, mentioned above, to take the decision out of the hands of the majority of the voters in the OCS district. That majority simply does not want to pay more for school funding.

I wrote:

It is quite possible that someone who wants merger would vote no because an OCS district tax would take the pressure off the commissioners to merge. It is quite possible that someone who will only support funding parity would vote no because this measure falls short of that. And it is possible that a no vote meant the voter thought the current funding level was just fine as is.

Has anyone refuted the possible motivations above? Are these reasons to vote no logically valid? If not, why not?

I'm not trying to say what the voters would or wouldn't vote for in a hypothetical referendum. I don't pretend to know the quantity of each group I've defined above. I'm talking about the usefulness of this referendum. Any conclusions are unsupportable based just on this vote.

Oh the nihilism. Nothing is knowable. Unless, as Julius Caesar wrote, it is what I wish to be true.

I've talked at length with two of the pro-funding anti-referendum board members. I do not believe their stance was motivated by political self-interest. It seems that the three members who were in this camp (Brown, Hough, Whitling) have slightly different reasons for their opposition, but all were sincere that they thougth the district tax was not the best funding solution.

Instead, I think they made a critical political miscalculation. Originally, they thought their opposition might convince the commissioners not to put this referendum on the ballot. The commissioners did it anyhow.

They decided to stand by their position. Now I hope they see the cost of their stand. It's hard to imagine how the resounding defeat of the referendum could possibly help them make a case that our schools deserve more funding and people are willing to pay it.

I like the Orange County Schools. I like the local control of the county district. Unfortunately, the trade-off for local control is a political process with significant numbers of people who don't want to pay more for education.

Back to the drawing board. Those of us who are pro-funding and anti-merger have to figure out how to continue fighting for increased funding. I hope our school board will drop their idealism and realize that when it comes to politics (and especially taxes), change is usually incremental.

As for the commissioners, who knows where they'll come out? They punted this time, but they probably can't again. My fear is that they'll just say "Sorry, you lose. No more funding." My hope is that they'll find the vision and strength to deal with this issue head on. My Christmas wish... an OCS parent who could run for commissioner in 2006 and win. It would be refreshing to have an OCS-CHCCS coalition candidate.

And what shall we do next year when the General Assembly delivers on its promise to fund only one LEA per county?

Do you really beleive the GA will do that? I don't.

Although I do think that brings up one more point. If someone is going to make the case that the funding difference between CHCCS and OCS is an issue of justice, then they should look at funding statewide. We can't say it's an injustice for OCS kids and not for other kids in surrounding counties or much poorer counties.

At that point, it really is a GA issue. Heck, it's a federal issue. We need adequate funding for schools, and inadequate funding from the feds and GA makes counties like ours squabble over property taxes.

This vote makes me more concerned about a potential merger of the school districts. Perhaps the OCS voters did not intend to send the message they did to the "other" school district, but they did---at this point I am concerned about a merger, because I worry that funding schools to the level I choose to support as part of the CHCCS district will be more difficult. Right now I know that I live in a community of like minded people who are willing to voluntarily pay extra money for the things they want for their children----after this vote I do not know what the Orange County voters want for their schools.

I think that down the road, the pro merger, pro- equal funding, and anti-district-tax-vote folks just shot themselves in the foot with this outcome. This vote will be cited frequently by the CHCCS constiuency as a reason to keep the school districts separate and to keep the special district tax in place. This vote just strengthened the status quo in Orange County------and maybe that' s just what the voters intended.

Anita - I agree that this vote strengthened the status quo.. If you read quotes in the paper from county residents who aren't on the school board and are not affiliated with the campaigns they see govenrment as tax and spender's. In the N&O they had someone who didn't know about the referendum but would have voted against it and used the words "government" and "squanders" in the same sentence. Another person who voted no said government should only provide essential services (I thought schools were?).

This sentiment certainly strenghtens the argument of CHCCS residents who would worry that merger would diminish school funding over time.

I can't remember what alice gordon's proposal was but it was one that would give more funding but none of the other commissioners would second it.

If brown, hough, and whitling were more realistic about the politics and taxes and stopped insulting all CHCCS parents something like a county wide tax might work but personally I'm burned out dealing with these guys. It seems to be all or nothing with this crowd.

And yes statewide there is lots of "inequality" one of the other 2 system counties has a school near the top and one near the bottom in funding, so on a social justice level having 2 schools in the top 5% of funding doesn't seem as "unjust".

Most of us would find it shocking to see what passes for a science classroom in some counties around this state. Those parents aren't uncaring about their kids' education or unwilling to sacrifice to make it happen. They just don't generate the revenue to do it.

There are real differences in real estate costs, but the basic funding mechanism based on local real estate values is inherently unfair to poorer counties. Since we all share in the state's economic future, we should subsidize the Robeson County schools. There should be MUCH more cooperative effort between and among school districts.

Yes, Graig, I do think the GA will "do that" (reduce to 100 LEAs). I'll bet my first lottery ticket on it.

If the legislature does a forced merger state-wide, the democratic legislature is going to pay for forcing tax increases on people while at the same time ramming through a lottery that is supposed to bring in MORE money to schools. A very bad double whammy of political strategy IMHO.
It wil bring more scrutiny to the lottery which I can't imagine Easley or Black want to do at this point.

The question on the 100 LEA is what is paid for by each LEA? Is it 1 or 2 positions in central office or more than that? Even if this were to pass at the state level, the county could potentially still keep two districts by picking up the funding for these particular positions. The state funds one school bus admin unit, but 2 garages are run in the county.

Assuming it did happen, would it have to happen all at once. e.g. a 20%+ property tax hike on state house 51 residents? or could it be done slowly?

In either case I can imagine Faisson would work hard to kill it because his contituents voted for Bush not Kerry and would probably be very pissed at such a tax increase. Faisson would be in a tough spot if "his" party did this..

I'm surprised that you think this would be viewed (by the GA) as a tax increase. I'd see them spinning this as saving tons of money by eliminating redundant administrative cost.

Not sure how the special district tax would end up under these circumstances. May not be the same as a choice to merge by the BOCC. Maybe a stroke of the pen would just eliminate Chapel Hill-Carrboro's Special District Tax and we'd have to run one system at the current Orange County funding level.

"Not sure how the special district tax would end up under these circumstances. May not be the same as a choice to merge by the BOCC. Maybe a stroke of the pen would just eliminate Chapel Hill-Carrboro's Special District Tax and we'd have to run one system at the current Orange County funding level."

keep dreaming. the current law makes it clear that to remove a vote of a tax by the people the people must unvote the tax.

Although I'm sure Moses is talking to Howard Lee already to try to force merger. No doubt about that. If they tried to eliminate the tax with a stroke of a pen there would be an uprising in democratic OC and even I would re-register as a republican. If you thought the northern transition carrborites were mad at annexation how do you think CHCCS parents would take a massive cut in school funding?

In terms of savings unfortunately this is another merger myth - a former school board member who is now a state representative knows that the administrative savings of merger is miniscule in the overall budget when she looked into it long ago.

IF anything like this happens people would trace it to moses through Howard Lee and the OC dems would get the blame. Moses already drove margaret brown over the cliff - I'm not sure who else besides the pro-merger anti-tax people are willing to go for the ride.

I find it politically unlikely that given the terribly unpopular lottery that was just slammed through that any one who is not politically tone deaf would even try this. If not for the fact that Moses likes a challenge and he and Faisson don't get along - this would have no chance.

The savings are less than 1% per district - which is only for 9 districts anyhow. In light of the 50 million dollar Easley request for the Rodin art sculpture museum, and all the $$$ we were promised from the lottery for schools this would be the politically stupidest move ever. To slap tax increases on rural NC residents in conservative leaning areas. I think the state GA has enough scandals/controversy to deal with for a few years..

actually, most opinion polls show the lottery to be terribly POPULAR with the public at-large, in the 70% range. (I worked in Hartford as a summer intern for a public interest group lobbying the Connecticut General Assembly in 1969 trying to OPPOSE the lottery, so do not paint me as a lottery supporter.) But most polls show North Carolinians heavily FOR the lottery.

The only way Howard Lee would be involved is if the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board invoked the "nuclear option" (used only once in North Carolina, by the Monroe Board of Education) and voted by a majority to dissolve. In that case, the State Board of Education (chaired by Lee) is required to merge the units and adopt a plan of merger including a new electoral system. No approval of the county commissioners, county school board, or voters is even involved.

As to whether the voters have to vote to "unlevy the tax" in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro unit, the county commissioners can just stop levying it, resulting in the same end.

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