Wake County Schools

State budget limbo puts Wake schools budget on hold

Posted June 17

— Uncertainty in how much money the Wake County Public School System will receive from state legislators led school board members on Tuesday to pass an interim budget that covers the district’s expenses at current spending levels.

But the move is a temporary fix to what school board members see as potentially another year of budget and staff cuts, something board member Susan Evans described as “embarrassing.”

“I am so saddened to be sitting here at this point this year, faced with the same potential hard decisions, knowing that our state is no longer in a recession,” she said during Tuesday’s school board meeting. “And questioning why we are in this place. I say the answer to that question has to be that those who control funding at the state level do not have public education as a priority. And we must make our voices known.”

The interim budget comes one day after Wake County commissioners approved a county budget that gives $13.9 million more to the district than last year.

School board members were supposed to vote on the district’s 2014-15 budget on Tuesday, but depending on what happens in the General Assembly, they may end up asking commissioners for an additional $10.2 million.

“The last chapter hasn’t been written yet, but the picture we’re looking at isn’t hopeful,” board member Bill Fletcher said.

Budget differences

David Neter, the district’s chief business officer, outlined the differences between the House, Senate and Governor Pat McCrory’s budgets:

Teacher salaries
Governor
$33,000 minimum salary
Salary increases from 2 to 4.3 percent

Senate
$33,000 minimum salary
11 percent average salary increase
Eliminate teacher tenure

House
$33,000 minimum salary
5 percent average salary increase

Principal salaries
Governor
No increase to 2 percent average increase

Senate
Step increase, $809 one-time bonus if at top of salary schedule

House
Step increase, 2 percent one-time bonus if at top of salary schedule

Assistant principal salaries
Governor
$809 one-time bonus to a step increase

Senate
Step increase, $809 one-time bonus if at top of salary schedule

House
Step increase, 2 percent one-time bonus if at top of salary schedule

Other employee salaries
Governor
$809 salary increase for full-time permanent staff

Senate
$500 salary increase for full-time permanent staff

House
$1,000 salary increase for full-time permanent staff

One of the few similarities between the budgets is master’s degree pay, which would be restored.

But the three proposals create serious funding gaps for Wake schools:

- $4.7 million gap to meet the governor’s budget proposal
- $4.6 million gap to meet the Senate’s budget proposal
- $900,000 gap to meet the House’s budget proposal

“At a time when other businesses are investing in their own, North Carolina has failed to reinvest in its schools,” Wake County schools Superintendent Jim Merrill said during the school board meeting. “It’s clearly failed to reinvest in its schools, which includes its teachers and employees.”

Tuesday’s meeting came hours after Merrill and leaders from some of the state’s largest school districts held a news conference to highlight the differences between the House and Senate budgets.

“Creating salary increases by slashing other areas (of education) is not a formula for academic success,” Tim Markley, superintendent of New Hanover County Schools, said.

Markley and Merrill said North Carolina teachers have gone more than five years without a meaningful pay increase, which has made it difficult to fill positions.

More than 600 Wake County teachers left the school system between July 2013 and April, mostly due to lack of pay, district officials said.

“If you fail to invest in your employees, they leave,” Merrill said during the press conference. “This is what superintendents are seeing as we prepare for the upcoming school year.”

5 Comments

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  • disgusted2010 Jun 18, 12:59 p.m.

    What is embarrassing is the school board. Another example of a liberal group that cannot live within its means and wanting someone else to pay for their incompetence and inability to do their elected jobs.

  • diana123 Jun 18, 12:13 p.m.

    they have the money, should see what happens in this bldg!

  • Shamrock Jun 18, 11:13 a.m.

    Say NO to any offers that include teachers losing anything such as tenure. NO to bonuses...half that money goes right back to taxes. Give these teachers a real raise!

  • WASP Jun 18, 8:22 a.m.

    Limbo is a great explanation of not just the budget but the entire NC Government.

  • tdouble232323 Jun 18, 8:11 a.m.

    The school board should have asked the county commissioners to raise taxes. Seeing how our state is "no longer in a recession." Wake County is free to tax and spend on schools however much they desire. Much easier to pass that buck, I get it.