Wake school board approves $1.37B proposed operating budget
Posted April 22
Updated April 23
Cary, N.C. — Wake County school board members unanimously approved a proposed $1.37 billion operating budget Tuesday evening that includes raises for teachers and staff.
The challenge now is having the budget approved by county commissioners, who are being asked to spend $39.3 million more for the 2014-15 school year - $35 million of which would be used to provide employees with a 3.5 percent salary increase.
Voters passed a $810 million school building bond that will add about 4.5 cents to the county tax rate. Granting the schools' full funding request could increase the tax rate by 3 additional cents, county commissioners Vice-Chairman Joe Bryan said.
"It is pretty clear if we met the school system request, it would be another tax increase," he said.
Board members, including Jim Martin, see the salary increases as an attempt to catch up.
"This is not asking for the moon," he said during Tuesday's board meeting. "This is not even asking for expansion. This is barely catching up. I will vote for it even though I don't like it."
If approved, the extra funds would raise the district’s per student allocation to $2,238, an increase of $189.
The majority of local funding - a third of the district's total budget - comes from county commissioners. Fines and forfeitures, earned interest, tuition and parking fees, and fund balance appropriation make up the rest of the local funding.
The bulk of the district’s total budget – 59 percent – comes from the state. Those dollars are mostly spent on salaries and benefits.
The proposed budget is part of Wake County Public Schools Superintendent Jim Merrill’s plan to, by 2020, increase per pupil spending by $400 and raise teacher salaries to the national average. Wake schools’ average teacher salary is $45,512 while the national average is $56,383, the district said.
The proposed budget reflects additional costs, including:
- More than 3,000 new students
- The opening of Vernon Malone College and Career Academy this fall
- Increased health insurance and utility costs
- Funding the local portion of the 2.5 percent state-mandated teacher salary increase
The budget also includes a number of initiatives, including:
- $930,000 for K-12 literacy initiatives
- $1.75 million in targeted elementary school funds for “differentiated resourcing”
- $1.7 million to expand pre-K services
- $610,000 for the second year implementation of curriculum/technology facilitators
- $150,000 for the Knightdale Education Working Group
Any budget agreement between the school board and county commissioners may change based on how much the district receives from state legislators.
"We don't know what the state is going to do," board member Bill Fletcher said before voting for the budget. "The April surprise hasn't been revealed yet."