Matthews, Mint Hill split on considering move to Union
If consolidation talks between Mecklenburg County and the city of Charlotte continue, Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor believes all options should be considered. That includes allowing Matthews, Mint Hill and Pineville to move into Union County.
“I think every option needs to be on the table,” Taylor said. “Consolidation is not better.”
The towns of Matthews and Mint Hill question what, if any benefits, they would receive if talks move forward. Officials say there have been no discussions about leaving the county, but ask why tax dollars from their residents should go to fund projects in another incorporated city.
“We really don’t see where its to our advantage to be included in consolidation talks,” Taylor said. “If we are going to be included, if our county tax dollars are going to be spent on Charlotte residents, then I think we need a seat at the table.”
The problem, Taylor said, is that Matthews and Charlotte operate differently and consolidation won’t address that concern.
“Our citizens have come to expect a certain level of service and I think between Matthews and Charlotte, response times are different, comfort levels are different,” Taylor said. “I think with a consolidation, everyone would be dissatisfied.”
Taylor pointed to the Charlotte Mecklenburg library and school system as two reasons he felt consolidation was a bad idea. Last year, the Matthews and Mint Hill libraries were scheduled for a potential closing by the county, until both towns agreed to help with funding. If the towns are going to pay for operations, Taylor said, why not just run things themselves.
“Look at the library system,” Taylor said. “The towns had to come save the day because we’re very passionate about our library and the service we get. Also look at the schools. If we in Matthews had control of our own schools, I think we could run the system better.”
In order to get Republican support for consolidating services between the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James suggested cutting all other towns out of the county. The idea, James said, was to prevent towns like Matthews and Mint Hill, which are in his District 6, from paying for county services they don’t use
Taylor said he understood where James was coming from.
“From Bill’s perspective, the suburbs are paying off the pot and getting very little, while Center City is putting in less and getting in more.”
Taylor said that at their Monday, Jan. 9 meeting, Matthews board members will vote on a resolution officially opposing the consolidation.
In neighboring Mint Hill, Mayor Ted Biggers said that while board members opposed consolidation, they hadn’t talked about leaving Mecklenburg County.
“At this point, it really hadn’t been part of our consideration and I don’t know that it will be,” Biggers said. “I don’t know that it’s something our board would talk about.”
Both mayors said they received an email from James on the subject, but couldn’t remember when that happened and that no further discussions had taken place.
“Now all of our board members are against consolidation, but this is something different,” Biggers said. “You’re talking about a much bigger step when you start mentioning leaving Mecklenburg County.”
Not the first time
This isn’t the first time Mecklenburg County has flirted with consolidation. There have been several studies over the past two decades, each with different viewpoints. According to the Research Division of the North Carolina General Assembly, there is a precedent for towns to switch counties, as it has happened before.
Gerry Cohen, Director of the Bill Drafting Division pointed to a 1973 Act that authorized elections in the town of Littleton, allowing residents to decide if they want to be in Halifax or Warren County. The residents voted to be in Halifax.
The process requires both counties to agree to redraw their boundary lines. If the two groups can’t reach an agreement, then a second option involves asking the General Assembly to force a change. In the scheduled “short” session of the General Assembly this year, state law requires all of a county’s delegation to approve a bill, before it can go forward. That’s due to the fact the state doesn’t handle controversial bills in the short session.