During a meeting this morning with editors and reporters at the Observer, N.C. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bob Rucho offered an eye-opening observation about Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. CMS, the Matthews Republican proclaimed, is "sitting on" $26 million in federal stimulus money. If the district has such a dire budget problem, he said, why aren't CMS leaders spending the money?
School board members, who have said they intend to press for more money out of Raleigh to help overcome a $100 million budget shortfall, might want to get on the phone with Rucho. CMS has made no secret of the fact that it received $25.7 million in stimulus money in August, then decided to save most of it till this year's budget process to help offset an anticipated $66 million drop in federal support, due largely to the stimulus program's disappearance. Superintendent Peter Gorman and School Board Chair Eric Davis say as much in an open letter to the public on the very first page of the school system's official 2010-11 budget document. And the 2011-12 budget Gorman unveiled last month outlines plans to spend the money this year.
Those messages apparently haven't made it to Rucho. Asked who told him CMS was hoarding stimulus money, he cited "private" sources out of Raleigh.