This week, I hosted a meeting between parents at Torrence Creek Elementary School, Mecklenburg County finance staff and board members along with representatives from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Huntersville. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the new Capital Improvement Plan funding process Mecklenburg County has recently adopted. As you are aware, funding for the proposed Stumptown Elementary School is something that I’ve been working toward and passionate about since becoming a member of the county board.

The county’s new capital project funding system is designed to better manage how taxpayer dollars are spent on construction, with the ultimate goal of managing our debt load and protecting our AAA bond rating. Projects within the system are ranked according to measured criteria and whether or not the county can afford to spend the money. As we have learned, the new system isn’t perfect, but I do feel it is a step toward getting a grip on how your money is spent.

Two tiers of funding will occur on capital projects by the county over the next two years. Tuesday evening, the Board of County Commissioners approved the first tier of projects. The new Stumptown Elementary is on the second-tier list, which will be brought to our board for approval during the FY12 budget process next summer.

At our county board meeting last night, County Finance Director Dena Diorio and myself presented to the board our intention of bringing a capital ordinance to the board in the spring of 2012 (April), prior to the regular budget season. This will allow for the timely completion of the new Stumptown Elementary school by August 2013. This timeline has been confirmed by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools as the earliest completion date possible, even if Stumptown Elementary funding had been approved in the first tier of funding.

Some will ask: Why not approve the funding now in anticipation of releasing the funds in April 2012 in order to give local residents the confidence that, indeed, Stumptown will be built as planned and promised? As in life, success in political debates is often a function of timing. Although I considered requesting an amendment to Tuesday’s ordinance, I did not have majority support for passage of this amendment. However, our board now clearly understands, and I believe supports, that funding for the Stumptown Road project will be presented next spring prior to the other Tier 2 projects.

For parents of children at Torrence Creek Elementary, trust has been eroded by a system that has promised them a new school for years. Throw in a soured economy and a new project-ranking system, and trust becomes further eroded. I clearly understand this.

What I am asking from the parents at Torrence Creek Elementary, who have so patiently awaited the construction of this new school, is to hold me accountable should I choose to seek re-election. I will make this happen for you.

Karen Bentley, Huntersville
Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners