Local News

State Lawmaker Wants To Change Lottery Funding Formula

Posted October 18, 2006

— Some Wake County leaders say they’re getting less lottery money by keeping local taxes low. One state lawmaker says he has a plan to change that, but his idea could meet resistance.

Currently, money from the North Carolina Education Lottery is divided among school districts based on enrollment and tax rate. Counties with a higher tax rate get a higher percentage of lottery money. It was designed to help lower-income counties, but Mecklenburg's high tax rate nets it double what Wake County receives.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools stand to receive $99 million for school construction over the next five years, while Wake County would only get $49 million. That’s in spite of the fact that Wake County now has a higher student population. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools have 126,900 students this year, compared with 128,070 in Wake County.

"That’s just unfair. I think the formula ought to be changed," said Wake School Board member Carol Parker.

"It’s patently unfair," said state Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake.

Dollar said he plans to introduce a bill to change that. He said he wants to take all of the net proceeds from the lottery and float a $5 billion statewide school bond for construction.

If the money were divided solely on student enrollment, Dollar said, Wake County would receive $400 million to build new schools.

Gov. Mike Easley's office called the plan unrealistic.

"First of all, this is a false promise, and it’s one that I don’t think the taxpayers should take too seriously," said Dan Gerlach, Easley's senior policy advisor.

Gerlach said taking all the net proceeds from the lottery for a statewide bond would take money away from other education programs -- programs like More at Four, scholarships and salaries for approximately 3,000 teachers whose positions help lower class size.

Gerlach also said the lottery is too new to secure bond money.

"I can’t blame lawmakers for wanting to fight for their school districts, but I can say that’s not a policy we’re going to pursue," Gerlach said.

Dollar said that at the very least, he'd pursue changing the funding formula.

"We’ve been penalized in Wake County, although we have the largest school population of any county. It’s very unfair," Dollar said.

Dollar can expect a fight when it comes to the funding formula. Rep. Lucy Allen told WRAL in June that she would oppose such a move. Allen represents Halifax, Franklin and Nash Counties. She said counties with a higher tax rate are often poor and don’t have the tax base on which urban communities can draw.

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