Wake may tap liquor taxes to pay teachers
Posted June 9, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Alcohol and schools usually don't mix, but the Wake County Board of Commissioners is looking at using $3.75 million from liquor taxes to boost the salaries of area teachers.
The board spent more than two hours Monday discussing how to raise the local salary supplement paid to teachers. Wake County's $6,200 annual supplement ranks second statewide to the $6,400 paid by Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, and commissioners said last week that they want to be known as the top-paying school district in North Carolina.
"How on earth did we get into this situation here in the capital county of North Carolina?" asked Commissioner Betty Lou Ward. "(We're) the richest county of North Carolina. We definitely should be able to pay our teachers better."
The Wake County Board of Education approved a $1.37 billion operating budget in April that included an additional $29 million to fund a 3.5 percent pay raise for teachers and school staff.
County Manager Jim Hartmann, however, left funding for teacher raises out of his proposed 2014-15 budget, saying he wanted to see how the legislature addressed teacher pay before committing any money toward it.
The state Senate passed a budget on May 31 that creates a pay scale for teachers who give up their career status, or tenure rights. Teachers moving to the new scale would receive an average 11 percent raise. The House is expected to begin working on its budget proposal this week.
Phil Matthews, chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, said last week that the board wants to "take care of our teachers where we can," which sent Hartmann and school Superintendent Jim Merrill to the drawing board to devise a way to increase teacher pay without raising taxes.
Commissioners said property taxes already are going up for other needs, and they don't intend to add to it for teacher salaries.
Hartmann recommended that the county use money generated by sales from local Alcoholic Beverage Control shops to increase the teacher salary supplement by about $200 to $300 a year.
"Any increase in pay is wonderful, but that is so small compared to increasing a person's salary and giving them a base in which to work," Ward said.
"Quite frankly, I don't think we are funding them at an adequate level locally now," Commissioner Carolyn Sullivan said.
The Board of Commissioners also discussed using some money from an available fund belonging to the Wake County Public School System.
"Everybody is doing the best they can. I hope that the people will see that is the type of effort the county has made," Commissioner Joe Bryan said.
The board is expected to pass the 2014-15 county budget next week. The new budget year starts July 1.