Raleigh, N.C. — Cutting local funding for Wake County schools was the first order of business Monday for the new Board of Commissioners.
Democrats now hold a 4-3 majority on the board, which observers say should lead to an improved relationship with the Board of Education and school district officials. Relations between the two groups have often been strained in recent years by money and student assignment issues.
But the commissioners face a projected $17 million budget deficit in the struggling economy, so they asked the district to cut its budget by $5.7 million.
The school board is expected to discuss the request at its Tuesday meeting.
Superintendent Del Burns asked the commissioners for fiscal leniency, noting the district already has had to give back about $5.5 million in state funding because of a growing state budget deficit.
County officials said they would work with the district, but noted that tough decisions need to be made to balance the budget. County departments have already been asked to look for ways to cut 4 percent this year and 10 percent next year.
"It's a tough situation, but I'm a tough guy," said Commissioner Harold Webb, the new chairman of the Board of Commissioners.
Despite past bickering, commissioners said Monday they would look past partisan divisions to work more closely with the school district.
"Most of the services that a county provides are basic life necessities – education, (police) protection, fire, EMS. Those types of services don't depend on Democrats or Republicans," Commissioner Tony Gurley said.