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Charlotte Area

Mayor Foxx Pushing City/County Consolidation

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Mayor Anthony Foxx

http://66.225.205.104/JR20110107b.mp3

Mayor Anthony Foxx says one of his immediate priorities for the New Year is to force a discussion about merging the city and county government. Consolidation talk has bubbled up periodically for years, but Mayor Foxx says the current budget crisis makes now a good time to look seriously at merging Charlotte and Mecklenburg. If you thought last year was painful, with teacher cuts, library closures and the rest, Mayor Foxx says the city and county are about to go through something even worse. Tax revenues are still struggling and there's no stimulus money this year to soften the blow. "What we're about to see is exactly how difficult it is to shape community priorities when we have resources siloed like we do," said Mayor Foxx in a press conference Friday. What he means by "siloed" is that the City of Charlotte gets one pot of money to fund certain things like roads and police officers. Mecklenburg County has another pot of money to spend on schools, libraries, parks and health programs. In tight times, that split causes a disconnect, with "people scratching their heads saying, 'It's great we're building a new road, but couldn't we use those resources to keep teachers in the classroom?'" said Foxx. "That's what people are gonna see this year." That's the way government is currently structured in Charlotte, and the way County Manager Harry Jones believes it should stay for now. Jones sent a letter to county leaders last month urging them to delay merger talks. He thinks there are better ways to save money and improve efficiency than to focus on merging certain city and county functions. A new study out from the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute shows consolidated governments aren't necessarily more efficient. Mayor Foxx believes Charlotte-Mecklenburg would be the exception. He'd like to see one mayor and one manager, with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in charge of its own budget as a taxing entity. That would take years to implement, but Foxx plans to stoke the conversation aggressively in the next few months.