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Wake boards face off over money, year-round schools

Posted May 16, 2007
Updated April 29, 2008

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— Tensions between the Wake County Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners continued to simmer Wednesday when the two groups met to discuss the annual budget for the school district.

The district has requested $305 million from the county for the coming year, which marks a $29 million increase over the current funding level.

Commissioners have said they don't want to raise taxes to pay for schools, noting the approval of a $970 million school construction bond in November will raise taxes on area residents.

Commissioners Chairman Tony Gurley said the debt service on the bond issue will increase the taxes paid on a $200,000 home by $72 even if the district's operation budget were to stay the same.

"We have increased property taxes 10 percent in the last two years. That is a significant increase, and I think we're getting close to reaching the limit that taxpayers are willing to pay," Gurley said.

County Manager David Cooke said recently that the county could provide about $294 million to the district in the coming year without raising taxes.

But school board members didn't appear to like the idea of an $11 million cut in the district's request. About $16.5 million of the funding increase from last year covers costs associated with growth, they said.

"We have worked very hard to give them a bare-bones budget, and the increase is what we need," school board Chairwoman Patti Head said.

Taxpayers shouldn't necessarily have to pay for the larger operating budget, Gurley said, suggesting the district draw from its $18 million fund balance.

"As a short term solution, maybe, they dip into that fund balance a little more than they would like," he said.

School board members weren't prepared to raid the balance, Head said, noting that money often is used for emergencies.

"We believe we need the balance -- it is a good business practice -- but we'll take one step at a time," she said.

Gurley started Wednesday's meeting by reading a two-page statement to air his feelings on the year-round school debate and other points of contention between the two boards.

The school board last fall approved converting 19 elementary schools and three middle schools from traditional calendars to year-round schedules, saying the district needed the extra space to accommodate a projected 8,000 new students.

But commissioners said they never signed off on the idea of mandatory year-round schools, and in January, they withheld about $3 million the district needed to convert the schools.

The district pulled money from its reserve fund to pay for the conversions, but a judge later ruled against the mandatory year-round school plan. The district is now seeking parental consent for about 32,000 students who have been assigned to year-round schools.

Gurley said he resented comments from school board members about the year-round funding issue following a previous meeting, but he pledged his support to work with the school board to resolve growth-related issues.

"The public chastising of the Wake County Board of Commissioners for surprising the school board with unanticipated policy decisions was surprising to me," Gurley said.

After the meeting, he said he hoped his statement helped clear the air so the boards could work together better.

"You can't continue to ignore what's in the room with you," he said. "This was just my effort to call attention to these conflicts, know that they exist and continue to move forward."

Head thanked Gurley for his statement, and the two groups began to hammer out details of the district's budget request.

"Obviously, there's been tension," Head said before the meeting. "We continue to work at the relationship, and we want to be partners with them."

Former Commissioner Herb Council said tensions are inevitable between the two boards. But he said he wishes the disagreements were handled privately.

"People in the community really don't want to see this aired publicly," Council said. "Honestly, if the tension continues, it will get worse."


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  • Builder03 May 17, 2007

    What do Wake Boards have to do with schools. I ride a wake board on the weekend, but didn't know about the school. I'm confused.

  • North East Raleigh May 17, 2007

    Maybe if:
    . We built new school with 2 or 3 floors, as opposed to just one, we wouldn't need to purchase so much land there saving money.
    . We need the Developers to kick in for schools and roads. Their too greedy to stop building in Wake County. I bet even with impact fees they could turn a decent profit.
    . Let's rid ourselves of all ESL programs and illegal aliens. I bet that would open more seats.

  • mramorak May 17, 2007

    I think if they start doing audits they will find lots of lost money.

  • enderby May 17, 2007

    Do not vote for any more money for the county! Some voted for the last bond issue with the understanding some was for conversions. The Commissioners somehow could withhold the money without voiding the bond. Whether you agree or not, the point is that apparently any money given to the county is really just a gift to the commissioners. Once they have our money there is no guarantee what is done with it!! Do we really need more handouts for developers?

  • ncguy May 17, 2007

    people people- The real problem is that we have thousands of illigals children in the school system. If they were not there than our problem would still be there but the urgency would not.
    Save our money send illigals home!!!
    Get rid of esl classes- save money
    Get rid of buses that have to go to bfe to pick them up-save money.
    Cut your own grass-save money
    save money by less free healthcare.
    Prison populations go down-save money

    GET THE IDEA? How come the school board doesn't say anything about illigals children- Oh it's not politically correct-PUKE!

  • endlessbs May 16, 2007

    Well here we go again. The socialist are already violating the constitution by calling rent taxes on personal property. If you have to pay to keep anything...guess what? you don't own it. We are paying for immediate infrastructure to satisfy the greed of builders and realty companies. The ones that have been here since birth and owned property are now having to pay for the greedy and bought and paid for politicians. I hope it gets so bad that all these idiots that voted for the school bond has to pack up and sale their "personal property" and move back where they came from or move somewhere else and screw up their quality of life. Thats the problem greed encourages quantity of life not quality. I love kids and support education to the fullest, but I don't want to pay for high back chairs for the elite to sit in and so called "tax" me into poverty. So lets put a smile on and endure the tax holocaust set in motion by aloft school board members, builders, and paid off moronic politicians.

  • croaswife May 16, 2007

    "If they want more money let them voluntarily give a line item budget of where the money will go and let the Commissioners choose the cuts more intelligently.

    I know that the BOE does not have to line item in most states, but if they want the money they should tell us exactly where it will go."

    There is a very detailed document that appears to do exactly this on the WCPSS website. Go here and take a peak:


  • lizard May 16, 2007

    "We have increased property taxes 10 percent in the last two years. That is a significant increase, and I think we're getting close to reaching the limit that taxpayers are willing to pay," Gurley said.

    You've passed it long ago dummy!

    Read John Stossel's book about the school system. It's a real eye opener.

  • 581C May 16, 2007

    Speedy: That was a completely facetious remark. If you had looked at the ridiculous posting before that you would have probably realized that -there was also the : )
    If I had such a problem with people that moved here from somewhere else I probably would not have married someone from Wisc.

    I do still believe that growth should be controlled, not stopped, and that is simply to make sure that we don't diminish the quality of life that we have come to enjoy in the triangle. I also think the school district in Wake County should be broken into smaller districts and that we need to start keeping an eagle eye on county commissioners and the school board alike.

  • Greene Giant May 16, 2007

    Here we go again. All the hype about Wake county schools. So where's all the lottery money going to? The government needs to stop making excuses, and do something about it. Not bandaid treatment! The truth lies in the fact that NC is giving up so much tax breaks to bring in businesses, and wants to hog all of it in Raleigh. Share the profits with the rest of the state, and you can share the problems. Otherwise, why doesn't NC just visit some of the other schools. The elementary school in Oxford was built in the early 1900's. This is typical of many in NC. But for some reason, the State of NC starts and ends at the Wake county lines. You don't think the rest of NC isn't having problems? If our government was really interested in the education system, it would look to better management of it's assets, which includes all of NC!