Wake residents push for more school funding
Posted June 5
Raleigh, N.C. — A steady stream of Wake County residents told the Board of Commissioners on Monday that the county needs to provide more funding to local schools.
County Manager Jim Hartmann last month proposed a $1.26 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts in July, including a 1.45-cent increase to the county's tax rate that would add $29 to the annual tax bill for the owner of a $200,000 house.
But Hartmann's proposal gives only $16 million more to the Wake County Public School System, which had requested $45 million in new money to keep up with enrollment growth. The county spending plan also would require the school district to spend $21 million in surplus funds from this year.
"Failing to keep up with growth, increasing pressures on teachers and professional staff, causes damage that will be costly to recover from," Susan Parry told commissioners.
"Isn’t it in the public interest for me to be as prepared as I can for when I become a functioning adult?" asked Wesley Wood, a 15-year-old Enloe High School student.
Hartmann reminded the board of the various competing interests for county funds and pointed out that the school system already gets 52 percent of the total budget.
"This recommended budget focuses on growing needs in critical areas, such as public safety, growth and development and education," he said.
Some speakers during a public hearing on the budget were blunt, telling commissioners to raise their taxes to fund schools.
"Please give Wake County (schools) the full amount they asked for. Why? Because Wake County can afford it, and it's the right thing to do," Karey Harwood said.
"Our children deserve the best education that can be provided and that involves raising and spending more money," said parent Ann Overton.
But the last speaker raised the caution flag, telling commissioners the school system needs to be held accountable for any extra dollars they may be given.
"Whatever funding comes out of this, we need to see the results of that the next time around when the request is made," Jerome Brown said.
Others said there have been too many tax increases in recent years.
"You folks are doing a marvelous job of incrementally taking the quality of life out of Wake County," said Joey Stansbury.
The Board of Commissioners is expected to adopt a final budget on June 19.