Cary, N.C. — The uncertainty of federal sequestration and the Affordable Care Act, as well as changes to state unemployment compensation, are creating more questions than answers as the Wake County Public School System begins budget talks for next school year.
The Wake County Board of Education on Tuesday heard Chief Business Officer David Neter outline the nearly $1.4 billion budget proposal, but the 306-page document doesn't account for an estimated $5 million reduction in federal funding due to sequestration.
He said certain parts of the budget were marked with footnotes about possible sequester impacts, but that there was too much uncertainty to make concrete cuts.
Neter said there are also questions about costs associated with the federal Affordable Care Act and whether the school board will need to reserve funds for unemployment compensation after the General Assembly voted to slash jobless benefits last month.
"There are a lot of difficult decisions ahead," Neter said. "We need to closely monitor events at the federal level and the state level, as there are a lot of question marks ahead."
The school system plans to ask for a $8.3 million increase in county funding to help cover costs of expanding the district's magnet program, opening Rolesville High School and accommodating the influx of about 3,000 new students.
With increased strain between the school board and county commissioners, however, board member John Tedesco said he isn't confident the county will agree to $8.3 million.
"Last year, when we were in a bit of a less contentious time, and we asked for $8 million for the first time in three years, they gave us half," he said. "Now we're at a more contentious time ... (and) the state's not making cuts like they did last year, so I don't anticipate them supporting that."
Board Chairman Keith Sutton, on the other hand, said he is hopeful that the school board can strike an agreement with commissioners.
"I'm hopeful we can work through our differences and not let that get in the way of what's needed for students in Wake County," he said.
The budget doesn't contain any layoffs or major cuts and does include salary increases for teachers.
Multiple budget work sessions and public hearings will be scheduled in the coming weeks to iron out details.
The board must adopt a budget by May 15, when it will go to the county commission for final approval.