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Wake commissioners unlikely to budge on school budget

Posted May 21, 2008
Updated June 17, 2008

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— Citing a tough economy and proposed tax increases already signaled by Wake County and Raleigh managers, county commissioners said Wednesday that the school system is going to have to do without some of the money it requested for the coming year.

School district administrators in March requested an extra $35 million from the county for 2008-09 to fund new schools and enrollment increases. Last month, the school board tacked another $19 million onto the budget request, saying it wanted to fund gang prevention, literacy and foreign language programs and undertake other initiatives.

County Manager David Cooke on Monday recommended giving the school system an extra $18.5 million for the 2008-09 year – one-third of the school board's request – as part of his $983.4 million budget proposal that included a small tax increase. The additional money would raise the county's support for area schools to $319.2 million.

"Because the public certainly has had to tighten belts, I think it's incumbent upon government this year to keep tax increases to a minimum, if at all," Joe Bryan, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, said Wednesday during a meeting between the commissioners and the Board of Education.

Tempers were at a minimum during the meeting, a marked contrast to past meetings that have been marked by acrimony and mistrust.

Commissioners said they wanted to know how the extra money the district has requested would be used. In addition to other programs, school administrators said the appropriation would provide small salary increases to certain employees and teachers.

"I'm just curious how this allocation of funds (would go) to teachers," Bryan said. "Is the general concept to give it to all teachers (or) certified teachers? Is it going to go to those that are going to really work on math and science? And then (I want to know) how that helps us be the No. 1 school system in America?"

"The ability to retain highly qualified, competent employees at all levels of the organization to support learning and teaching is critical to us," Superintendent Del Burns said.

School board Chairwoman Rosa Gill said continued enrollment growth means operating more school buses, hiring more teachers and buying more supplies and equipment.

The two boards also heard from the Wake Education Partnership and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, which have suggested giving commissioners the authority to build and maintain schools in exchange for providing the district with a multiyear funding guarantee.

"What we're going through is a refinement process as they determine whether this is something they are able to develop an agreement on," said Harvey Schmitt, president and chief executive of the chamber of commerce.

The commissioners and the school board haven't decided whether to enter into such an agreement, but school administrators said the deal would add another $24 million to its budget request to implement student achievement accountability measures.

"(This would) move our kids from where they are to be competitive in the 21st century," Gill said.

The school district and the county need to approve their budgets before July 1.


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  • TheAdmiral May 22, 2008

    I think I am going to run for school board.

  • TechRescue May 22, 2008

    Why does Wake County (and NC) continue to ignore or ridicule the cost-effective solutions of Charter schools? Raleigh Charter was just ranked #27 in the Country by Newsweek magazine, based on the advanced placement tests given students. PS teachers ridicule this criteria - one even told me that the students could have failed all the tests, having been given them only to get the numbers up. Unlikely - there is significant cost involved. So I went and checked. Last year 95% of RCHS Seniors took the SAT and averaged 1853. The State average is 1486, but only 71% took the test, so the comparable average for the state is likely much lower. (source: NCDPI SAT Report).

    We currently have a bureaucratic freight train - slow, one track, but having plenty of power to knock any opposition out of the way. We need UPS - flexible, versatile, and willing to make a commitment to it's customers beyond vague promises and excuses.

  • Fun May 21, 2008

    oceanchild71, Ok...I'll give in "some" I'll give you 6 additional positions at each school for a total of 35 or a 30% reduction in head count. What you give me in exchange is this we get out of the food service business. Lots of companies do this, let a private enterprise company do it, just like colleges. AND as bonus, we'll have a voucher system to empower parents free CHOICE in their childs education.

  • AWakeMom May 21, 2008

    AX - office personnel don't work closely with the students? What an insane thing to say. Have you been in an elementary school lately? Speaking as an office person, I work more with the students than I do with the staff. I agree that TA's are vital to the school. The definition of a TA is not the same as it was 10 years ago, and they should be making more. However, I too wear many hats. Between being the budget person, the nurse and caretaker of the students when they get sick, and having to manage a staff of over 100 - it upsets me to think that just because I'm not a teacher, that people feel my job is worth less money. I'm one of the few out there that is honest, I don't embezzle money, and I care what happens to my school. I work 12 months a year, I haven't taken a sick day in I can't remember when, and I do a good job. I disagree with the current pay scales, I think we should move to a job incentive pay scale. Let your boss determine your worth.

  • whatelseisnew May 21, 2008

    It should only take about 3 people to handle the Web sites for all the schools. Computer problems, have a couple of people to handle calls, and perhaps 4 to be available to go to each school to fix problems that can not be handled over the phones. If you think that is too few, we had three people that handled these things for a couple of thousand people and lord knows how many servers; computers, printers and network equipment they handled. They also handled far more operating systems and applications than the school system uses.

  • oceanchild71 May 21, 2008

    Fun: You need the media center people; you need the SIMS person (who manages all the student data for each school); you need a technology person at each school to do the school website and assist teachers with computer issues; you need lunch staff; you need counselors at each school that assist both students and teachers when there is a problem or to prevent an even bigger problem; then there is a testing co-ordinator at each school; etc. While you think it would be simple to eliminate these positions, just wait until you need to update your child's information because you changed jobs etc. or you think your child has a learning disability so you need to figure out how to get the proper testing and diagnosing done. These are all needed positions at every school and these staff members are usually immensely helpful and indispensable.

  • whatusay May 21, 2008

    Are you people insane...welfare, created by our government is the problem. How many children from illegals are in our school system, how many children from single parent mom's on welfare are in our school system, how many children being raised from grandparents are in our school system....ALL CREATED BY GOVERNMENT WELFARE. Illiminate welfare. Why do tax paying citizens have to foot the bill for all of the above.

  • poohperson2000 May 21, 2008

    FRL's is a federally funded program!

  • Fun May 21, 2008

    An elementary principal I know says she has 350 students and 50 staff members. Thats 7 students for each staff member. She thinks she's a great manager. I dont want to offend her, she's just a "spoke" in the wheel of BIG MONEY WASTE. Why not try this; 15 students in a classroom with 23 teachers, 1 principal, 1 assistant principal, 2 secretaries and 2 custodians for a total of 29 staff. Reduce staff by 42% in each school. Reduce the administration head count in the "Glass Palaces" by the same amount 42%. Businesses MUST do it..Government should! Im for Walmart schools and government!

  • whatelseisnew May 21, 2008

    Here are two things that are always true about budget requests, especially when it comes to government agencies, but it is true even outside of government: 1. You always ask for more than you think you will need because you have to allow for under-estimating and you always assume your budget request will be cut. 2. You always spend the entire budget because you work from the premise that if you do not you will not be able to ask for a bigger budget the next year.