More money unlikely for Wake schools, Raleigh police, firefighters
Posted June 13, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — The Wake County Board of Commissioners and the Raleigh City Council are expected to approve the respective 2016-17 county and city budgets next week, and members of both panels said Monday that major changes to proposed spending plans are unlikely.
The Wake County Public School System and Raleigh police officers and firefighters have pushed in recent weeks for more money in the budgets.
The school board in March requested an extra $35.7 million from the county to fund school operations during the coming year, but Wake County Manager Jim Hartmann recommended including only $23.9 million of that in his proposed $1.2 billion budget, noting that the county last year increased support for the school district by a record $44.6 million.
During a work session on the budget Monday, the Board of Commissioners didn't even mention the $11.8 million gap in school funding.
"I think you see a board that is happy with what we've proposed," Commissioner Sig Hutchinson said.
Commissioner Jessica Holmes noted that the proposed budget funds a variety of programs that will help children be more successful in school, such as local food pantries and a pilot breakfast program.
Meanwhile, a suggestion at a City Council workshop on Raleigh's budget to include a one-time bonus for police officers and firefighters fell flat.
Hundreds of police officers and firefighters rallied at a City Council budget hearing last week, saying they are some of the lowest paid in Wake County and can't afford to live in the city they serve. City Manager Ruffin Hall has included an average 3.25 percent raise for all city employees in his $858.6 million budget proposal, but police want a 5 to 10 percent raise and firefighters are pushing for a 7 percent increase.
Councilman David Cox proposed the bonus until the city can complete a pay study next year, citing the weekend massacre in Orlando, Fla., and the inherent danger of the jobs police firefighters take on.
"We have a party coming up on the lawn of Dix Park in a couple of weeks, and I think about what happened in Orlando yesterday, and I think about reading about this officer down there who took a shot in the helmet and ended up with injuries to his eyes," Cox said. "To think that we have sworn officers and firefighters on public assistance, and we're telling them that we have to wait another year, I find that hard to accept."
Mayor Nancy McFarlane said everybody agrees that raises are needed, but they need to be handled in a systematic way.
"It is more complex than coming up with a one-time bonus for just a certain segment of employees," McFarlane said.
Raleigh's budget would include a 2-cent increase to the city's tax rate if passed as proposed, while Wake County's budget would include a 1.35-cent increase to the county's tax rate. Combined, the two increases would add $67 to the annual tax bill of a $200,000 house in Raleigh.