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Monday, March 28, 2011

In the City

What's the first thing you would you do if you were the mayor of Charlotte or serving as a city council district representative? Would you build roads? Make Charlotte's airport the best in the world? Give more of your budget money to CMS?

If you said roads or the airport, you've been doing your homework on the city government. The city and county each have different services and responsibilities.

Different governments, different services

While the county deals with services and issues that touch people - such as schools, parks, libraries, social services and jails - the city's services focus a little more on business and infrastructure. Here's a quick breakdown:

Charlotte City Government services
  • Charlotte Douglas International Airport
  • Economic Development
  • Fire 
  • Garbage and Recycling
  • Neighborhood Development
  • Neighborhood Improvements
  • Planning and Zoning
  • Police
  • Road Construction
  • Street Maintenance
  • Transit
  • Water and Sewer
Mecklenburg County Government services
  • Libraries
  • Jails
  • Parks
  • Recreation
  • Education (funds part of CMS and CPCC)
  • Human and Social Services  

Governments working together

Sometimes, the city shares services with another level of government. For example, the city and county collaborate on certain issues, such as bringing a company to Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Other times, for example with transportation, there are many different governments involved. Think about roads. Some are built and maintained by the city. Examples include most neighborhood and smaller streets. If you need a sidewalk, light or road repair you can call the city. Others  are state highways, and are built and maintained by the state. Examples: Wilkinson, Independence, Albemarle, Providence, Pineville-Matthews. The city has to wait for the state to make a repair or improvement, or take money out of the city budget to make the repairs it needs to keep streets safe. It then asks the state to pay the city back for those repairs. When the state has its own budget issues, sometimes this repayment is delayed a long time.

City Council Focus Areas
The city divides its services and priorities into what it calls Focus Areas. This helps the city leaders and staff to focus on key strategies and priorities, even when there are other interesting opportunities for the city to get involved in.
  • Housing & Neighborhood Development - The Housing & Neighborhood Development Focus is an initiative designed to comprehensively deal with economic development and quality of life issues in Charlotte's older urban neighborhoods and business areas.
  • Community Safety - The committee's charge is to focus the Council on initiatives to reduce crime and make the most effective use of City government resources in making Charlotte a safer community. 
  • Transportation - As a regional growth center Charlotte needs to upgrade and expand its transportation infrastructure and services including a regional network view.  The charge of the Transportation Committee is to look at local issues as well as direct the vote of the local representative to the regional council. 
  • Economic Development - Because a strong economic environment is essential for the community's long term health the Economic Development Committee works to provide direction that supports development of an educated and trained work force, fosters partnerships to aid local economic growth, retains and attracts quality businesses, supports business development and contributes to the economy
  • Environmental  - The Charlotte City Council is taking measures to safeguard the environment by focusing the City's priorities on this area. 
  • Other Committees - In addition to the Focus Area Committee the City Council also meets in committee to discuss important issues such as the budget, government efficiency, and how the city government works with other governments.


Many people think the city is in charge of the schools. While in some cities, such as New York or Washington, the mayor is in charge of the schools as part of the city's services, Charlotte's government is different. The schools are managed by the superintendent, governed by the school board, and funded by the county and state. The city has no official role.

Budget process
The city goes through a budget process that is similar to the county, CMS and other governments. City leaders meet to plan strategies and goals for the year. The city council members create lists of priorities they want to make sure get funded. The city manager takes that information and creates a budget. He recommends the budget in May. After that, the council reviews it, hears from citizens (who often want to reduce one item or increase another) and finalizes the budget. The council votes on the budget in June and it becomes official.

Learn more
Watch or attend a city council meeting
Speak at city council meeting
City council budget process
City budget
Budgets for city and towns
Contact mayor and city council
Contact city manager's office
Read Focus Area Plans and Strategies
YouthCivics agenda and handouts
YouthCivics presentation
Contact Kids Voting for classroom materials about local government including editable presentation