Wake budget plan would hold line on taxes, give more to schools
Posted May 21, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — Wake County Manager David Cooke rolled out his proposed $941.5 million budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year on Monday, keeping property taxes at their current level but providing the local school district with less than half of its requested funding increase.
Because of the county's recent merger with Durham County to provide mental health services, the size of Cooke's proposal is $10.6 million less than the 20122-12 budget. Yet, it reflects $22 million in new revenue.
County officials expect the property tax base to grow by $10 million in the coming year, and they are projecting an extra $9 million in sales tax revenue. The rest of the new money would come from state funding for housing people convicted of misdemeanors at the Wake County Detention Center and from additional Emergency Medical Services fees.
The property tax rate under the proposal would remain at 53.4 cents per $100 of valuation.
The Wake County Public School System had requested an additional $8.8 million in county funding for the 2012-13 school year after seeing the county hold the line on its support at $314 million in recent years. Cooke's spending plan would provide the district with an extra $3.9 million.
Paul Coble, chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, said the county can't afford to pick up the slack in school funding after the state slashed spending on public education last year.
"It's difficult for the county to make up cuts that come from the state," Coble said. "We can't be expected to make up those differences because, frankly, what would happen is the state would start cutting every year and then ask the counties to make up those differences.
"That's simply a game we're not going to play," he said.
School Superintendent Tony Tata said school leaders will look to state lawmakers to make up the difference if the county's proposed budget goes forward as is.
"They are good people working hard to make education right," Tata said of the county Board of Commissioners. "I have trust, faith and confidence we are going to get to where we need to be."
If the district can't make up the difference with county or state funds, Tata said, there are other contingency plans in place that won't require layoffs.
"We know it is a tough economic time," Tata said. "We cut 56 positions out of Central Services last year. We cut a secretary out of every school and we reduced hours of certain employees."
Wake school board Vice Chair Keith Sutton said "any scenario that involved more cuts is going to hurt" and he hopes that economic improvements will free up some funding for the district.
"The economy is slowly ticking upward," he said. "The question is how fast."
Wake Technical Community College would get an extra $200,000 from the budget, for a total allocation of $16.2 million.
Cooke called for spending an additional $5.9 million on public safety because of the county's growing criminal justice facilities.
The Board of Commissioners must approve the new county budget by June 30.