Keeping tax dollars in south Charlotte is a main concern for many Ballantyne residents, and a hot topic that could affect who will represent the area at the city level in the future.
About 20 candidates gathered at an informal meet and greet event hosted by the Ballantyne Breakfast Club advocacy group and the Ballantyne Chapter of Charlotte Chamber of Commerce this week, including candidates for mayor of Charlotte, city council at-large, District 7 and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education District 6. Ballantyne voters can vote in each race.
A packed room filled with a mix of candidates, their campaign staff and area residents provided the first chance in Ballantyne this election season to drill individual candidates on their top priorities, leaving many residents asking which candidates will represent for the good of all of Charlotte, whose focus lies heavily Uptown, and which candidates have the best interests for Ballantyne at heart.
That’s the case for south Charlotte resident Patrick Twiest, who lives near the Arboretum. Twiest has lived in the area for about 10 years, he said, and while his daughter attends one of south Charlotte’s private schools, he’s still invested in CMS and hopes the next District 6 representative will encourage success in all of the district’s schools.
“The school is the growth of the community,” Tweist said. “If you don’t have good schools, there won’t be any growth in the community.”
That’s the belief of current Matthews Mayor Pro Tem Paul Bailey, who is running for the CMS Board of Education District 6 seat along with Pineville resident and education advocate Bolyn McClung. Doug Wrona also is running for the seat, but was not present at the meet and greet.
Bailey, whose focus centers on increasing the CMS graduation rate and creating more resources and opportunities for all students to achieve their goals, also is for cultivating and improving all community schools.
“The county school system is only as good as the weakest link,” he said, adding that though most schools in District 6 could be labeled as some of the best in the county, schools in other parts of the district need serious attention, too.
For McClung, he says District 6 is “particularly challenging,” as working to balance the needs of south Charlotte with the south Mecklenburg towns of Matthews, Mint Hill and Pineville has proved time and time again to be a lot to handle. In south Charlotte, residents always want to be the very best of the district, he said. In Mint Hill, residents are still upset about the boundary lines created for Rocky River High School. Matthews can hold its own, but they still need help maintaining schools, he added, and Pineville, McClung’s hometown, is particularly unique. With a new school building for Pineville Elementary School, spirits are high, but the town no longer has a growing community, McClung said.
“Within four miles, we have one of the richest schools and poorest schools and that’s Ballantyne and Sterling,” McClung said.
But south Charlotte residents are still concerned about per-pupil expenditures and how to ensure they’re getting the funds needed for their students to succeed.