Commissioners approve Wake budget, teacher raises
Posted June 16, 2014
Updated June 17, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — The Wake County Board of Commissioners on Monday approved a $1 billion budget for 2014-15 that includes a 4.4-cent increase to the property tax rate and uses liquor tax money to fund teacher raises.
The tax increase, which adds $88 to the annual tax bill on a $200,000 home, was approved by voters last fall to fund the Wake County Public School System's building program.
“Education is a key issue for our community,” County Manager Jim Hartmann said in a statement. “Wake County Public School System staff and county staff have worked together closely to identify short-term and ongoing steps for determining sustainable school funding options.”
The school district will receive $13.9 million more from the county in 2014-15 than it has this year, a 4.3 percent increase. The budget also provides an extra $3.75 million to increase the local supplement to teacher salaries and an incentive for the district to return any unused funds to the county at the end of each year.
Commissioners last month committed to offering the largest salary supplement for teachers in North Carolina. Wake County's supplement of up to $6,200 ranked behind only the $6,400 offered by Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, and Hartmann recommended tapping money generated by sales from local Alcoholic Beverage Control stores to increase the local supplement by about $200 to $300 a year.
Despite the teacher raise, Commissioner Betty Lou Ward voted against the budget, saying it doesn't go far enough. She was the lone vote against the plan.
"When you get right down to it, they need more money," Ward said.
Commissioner Carolyn Sullivan proposed increasing taxes in the future to raise teacher salaries even further.
"I don't feel like we're giving the schools what they need next year," Sullivan said.
State lawmakers are still trying to hammer out a budget, and the House and Senate have proposed different raises for teachers.
"I think it's going to take a local as well as a state solution to bring our teacher salaries back up to competitive levels," said Christine Kushner, chairwoman of the Wake County Board of Education.
Outside of schools, the budget, which is the largest in county history, provides for the following:
- Expanding ambulance service and staff for Emergency Medical Services to keep pace with population growth.
- Obtaining new blood/alcohol analysis equipment and hiring chemists for the City-County Bureau of Identification to accommodate increased driving while impaired cases.
- Purchasing new courthouse security equipment and technology for the Wake County Sheriff's Office.
- Hiring two inspectors to ensure that restaurants, hotels, childcare facilities and nursing homes meet sanitation guidelines.
- Adding six people to handle child protective services and adult guardianship cases.
- Hiring 10 school health nurses to provide health services in underserved areas.
- Adding seven people to support increased development in the county.
- Expanding full-time and temporary staffing to keep up with the food stamp and Medicaid application caseloads.
The budget also includes a a 2.75 percent raise for county employees, which upsets some school supporters.
"I do think it's unfair that they are giving a raise to their own employees but they're not giving a salary increase to school employees," former teacher Patricia Pilarinos said.