Cary, N.C. — The Wake County Public School System must cut an additional $2.75 million from its budget for 2012-13, school board members learned Tuesday.
That's on top of $24.3 million that's already been slashed from Superintendent Tony Tata's $1.25 billion spending plan. The budget is less than last year because of $28 million in expiring grants and another $8.7 million cut in state funding.
The new funding gap comes from an additional $1.1 million cut in discretionary funding from the state, as well as more than $1 million in additional transportation expenses resulting from the board's vote two weeks ago on a new busing schedule.
School system staff have proposed that the additional cuts be made up in the area of school supplies and from the district's administrative office.
The school system's chief business officer, David Neter, warned that additional changes to budget allocations from the state could affect staffing levels – exactly the opposite of what Tata is trying to do.
As it stands now, Tata's budget calls for no layoffs. It does account for a 1 percent pay increase for all teachers, as well as a one-time bonus for most other school employees.
"As the economy gains a pulse, we do not want to get caught flat-footed, where our most talented people are snatched up," Tata told the school board. "That's why we put this – as meager as it is – into the budget."
Tata has said he plans to fill the additional gap and account for growing needs – an estimated additional 3,500 students and five new schools opening next year – by using $28 million of the district's savings as well as an additional $8.8 million from Wake County.
The county's funding has been flat in recent years, and despite a joint meeting with the school board and county commissioners last month, there's been no indication publicly that the county will provide the additional funding.
In an effort to help cut expenses, Tata had originally put forth a bus routing plan that would save the district $6 million. The board, however, approved an alternate plan last month – after hearing from parents – that saves only $4.8 million.
That takes 79 buses off the road and will result in 33 schools seeing a schedule change, despite objection from parents.
"We are being as open and as transparent as we can," Tata said recently. "It is a tough economic time right now. It's a zero-sum game. I either modify the transportation system, or I go into the classroom."