Wake school board to vote on budget, job cuts
Posted August 10, 2010
Raleigh, N.C. — The economy continues to have a negative impact on the Wake County Public School System. School board members are meeting Tuesday to vote on the 2010-11 budget, which could include denying raises and cutting jobs.
The board approved a $1.4 billion operating and capital preliminary budget in April and anticipated most cuts in state support then. That included 68 layoffs, cutting 57 vacant jobs from the organizational chart and a hiring freeze. Now, it is revisiting the budget after county and state funding has been decided.
Last week, the board told Interim Superintendent Donna Hargens to look at cutting more central administration jobs and restoring some to the Project Enlightenment preschool program.
Finance director David Neter told the board that the system will have to lay off six non-certified positions employees in the district's Transportation Department because of state-mandated funding cuts of about $1.2 million.
Neter said the cut in state funding for transportation will not affect buses on the roads, which the board already had decided to increase to accommodate the growing student population.
One area where the budget will rise is for security at board meetings. Raleigh police, some hired to beef up security, arrested 19 protesters at the board's July 20 meeting. At least a few Raleigh officers have been present at board meetings for the past few months.
"We have had some increased costs for security at board meetings," security chief Russ Smith told the board, though he added that Raleigh police have not asked the school system to cover a lot of its expenses. Smith asked for about $60,000 more than the board budgeted for contracted security services last year.
The board gave Hargens no dollar target for cuts, but board members who combed through central office positions during the budget work session focused on several:
- an assistant superintendent position that will become vacant with a retirement next month
- a government liaison who keeps tabs on state agency decisions and the Legislature
- a real estate services job in Planning and Construction
- program evaluator positions the system's Evaluation and Research Department.
Neter had good news for the board in one area, saying that switching from Sprint/Nextel to another provider for about 1,500 district-supplied cell phones will reduce costs to about $32,600 this fiscal year from $211,000 in 2009-10.
Project Enlightenment had planned to have nine fewer employees this year, Marvin Connelly, assistant superintendent for student support services, said. The board told Hargens to try to restore about half of the cuts.
The school system describes Project Enlightenment as "an early childhood education and early intervention program for children birth through kindergarten age, their parents and teachers."
The board also is scheduled to take a second and final vote on a policy change that will cut its schedule to one work session and one voting meeting per month and will abolish all standing committees – Finance, Facilities, Student Achievement, Human Resources.
Task-specific committees such as Student Assignment, which is trying to devise a plan to implement the system's new community based policy, and Superintendent Search will remain until their jobs are done.
Opponents of changing the meeting schedule argued before the first approval last month that the public will lose half the time it had to address the board each month. Public comments are during voting meetings.
Supporters said then that they could consider extending the comment time at a single monthly meeting.