Local News

Housing Slump Means Lower Numbers for Wake Co. Schools

Posted November 5, 2007

— Slowing growth in Wake County played a part in creating lower than expected attendance numbers for the public school system this year, planners said.

Nearly 6,000 more children showed up for school in 2007 than in 2006 – short of the increase of 8,000 students Wake County Public School System officials had expected. School systems in Mecklenberg and Forsyth counties saw similar down-turns.

"What appears to be most related is the tight housing market in many areas across the country," Chuck Dulaney, WCPSS assistant superintendent for growth and planning, said.

Economists predict that a nationwide housing slump, which began in mid 2005, could cause 1.3 million foreclosures from late 2007 to 2009 and dampen home prices by up to 11 percent.

"In parts of New York, they've had double-digit foreclosure rates," Melanie Wilson, Wake County's planning director, said.

The effects of that national trend recently began to affect the Triangle housing market. Sales of existing homes and buildings in Wake County fell by 12.36 percent in October, contrasted to sales in October 2006. Overall, 6.4 percent fewer building permits were issued in the first nine months of 2007 than the same period for the year 2006.

The slowdown, however, has been uneven. Existing home sales for the year are down by around 7 percent, but September saw the biggest drop with 16.72 percent.

Only two months posted gains in home sales – 2.69 percent in May and 0.3 percent in July.

Officials counted the number of building permits for 10 municipalities and unincorporated land through September of 2007 and 2006. Of those 11 areas, eight saw a decrease in the number of permits issued, two were stable, one had a moderate increase, and four had an increase.

School planners rely on school population and birth rates to estimate future enrollment. Last year, they also used building permits to predict how many students would be in kindergarten. Their numbers, however, were way off.

"It's just a projection. It's not an exact science," Wilson said.

After slowed growth skewed their numbers for the 2007-2008 school year, school and county planners are trying to figure out how to create accurate forecasts. Planners may need to determine how many houses are sitting empty and if the housing slump is just a blip or a long-term trend.

"I guess the question becomes whether subdivisions are built and sold in two years or three years or four years," Dulaney said.

Controversy over year-round schools may also have played a roll in lower attendance, as more parents opt for private schools.

Enrollment numbers affect budget numbers and spending for new schools. David Cooke, Wake's county manager, estimated that schools got $4.8 million more than they needed this year due to lower enrollment.

Cooke suggested cutting WCPSS's' budget by that amount next year, but school officials said it is too early to make that call.

Although the increase of 5,934 students in 2007 was less than projected, the rise was the third-largest in the WCPSS's history. WCPSS also became the largest school system in the state this year with 134,002 students in the first 20 days of the school year, surging past Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools for the first time.

Growth in 2007 also varied widely across the county, with the biggest gains seen in the eastern, western and southern extremes.

Zebulon and Apex saw sizzling increases of 95.5 and 85 percent, respectively, in the number of building permits issued for the first nine months of the year. But Garner dropped by 84 percent and Angier by nearly 77 percent.

Fuquay-Varina had an increase of 33.76 percent. Cary saw an increase of 8.3 percent, while Rolesville and Knightdale were basically stable, with increases of under 1.5 percent.

Six other areas reported lower decreases: Holly Springs 42.8 percent, Wendell 40.5 percent, Morrisville 20.9 percent, Wake Forest 12.6 percent, unincorporated areas 11.8 percent, Raleigh 10.2 percent.

The Wake County Board of Education planned to discuss enrollment projections on Tuesday. 


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  • Obscurite Nov 7, 2007

    "The civil war ended long ago."

    Not for some. I pass a neighbor's residence every day. He still proudly flys his Rebel flag. Looks mighty fine in front of his single wide, though. The rusting pick-up out front is a particularly nice touch.


  • Space Mountain Nov 6, 2007

    It might have, but a lot of the overcrowding problems in Wake County today are caused by yankees selling their overpriced homes up north and buying overpriced homes, yet still cheaper than their homes up there, here. That's why all the new homes you see being built in Wake County cost over $200K. How are those who are actually from the area affording those homes when the median household income in the area is under $60K? So who do you think they are building the houses for? The funny thing is, they leave from up north to get away from the problems there, and they just are creating the same problems here with housing, schools, and roads.

  • Nancy Nov 6, 2007

    "I guess all those yankees will have to find someplace else to move then, and that is not a bad thing at all. All this influx of yankees has done is cause overcrowded roads and schools, urban sprawl, and unreasonable housing prices."

    The civil war ended long ago.

  • tmedlin Nov 6, 2007

    There's over 750 homes on the market priced at $800,000 and up! That's ridiculous!

  • Space Mountain Nov 6, 2007

    This is great news. Now if people will vote for those who want to control growth, things might get back to normal. I guess all those yankees will have to find someplace else to move then, and that is not a bad thing at all. All this influx of yankees has done is cause overcrowded roads and schools, urban sprawl, and unreasonable housing prices.

  • Nancy Nov 6, 2007

    "Now that we are seeing signs that growth is coming into check, you guys are complaining about that too! Hahahaha thanks for keeping me entertained."

    Considering they played Henny Penny in demanding ever increasing monies through bond issues and attempting to force year round schools based on their erroneous projections, it's understandable that people are not pleased.

    It's just another sign of how inept those who are in charge really are.

  • Billfisher Nov 6, 2007

    Death and Taxes folks. Death and taxes. Some of y'all are pretty funny. When they came out with the predictions people were all up in arms about slowing growth. Now that we are seeing signs that growth is coming into check, you guys are complaining about that too! Hahahaha thanks for keeping me entertained.

  • TheWB Nov 6, 2007

    Let's tug at the fiber of this thread, taxes, illeagls and their drain thereof. Oh how I wish there was a presidential candidate who did not come across as a nut case and who ran on strong immigration reform along with the Fair Tax.

  • Nobody but Carolina Nov 6, 2007

    Add on to that the revaluation of property that is being finalized as we speak that will most likely push up the value of most, if not all, property in Wake County that property tax is based off of. That also goes in to effect with the 2008 Tax year.

  • whatelseisnew Nov 6, 2007

    Doodad -
    It matters not what the per hundred rate is in a given county. Here is the only number each one of us should be concerned about. In my particular case, this year, my home property tax (not counting vehicles) equals 5 percent of my take home pay after the feds and the state get done ingesting their share. This does not yet include the increase we are getting hit with next year to pay for the 200 million in bonds that just passed last month. So just a question, what is too high to pay. Would ten percent of my money be enough for the county? 20 Percent?