Wake County Schools

Wake school board swears in new member, holds budget hearing

Posted March 19, 2013

— The Wake County Board of Education welcomed its newest member Tuesday evening, shortly before kicking off a public hearing about next year's budget.

Bill Fletcher fills the school board vacancy left by the departure of Debra Goldman. The Cary resident will represent District 9, which covers western Wake County.

"I want to help our district move forward," Fletcher said after a brief swearing in ceremony. "We are among the best in the nation and we can be the singular best in the nation."

Fletcher, a registered Republican, earned the support of six of the eight sitting board members, all of them Democrats. He was among six candidates to interview and previously served three terms on the board, from 1993 to 2005, and was involved in the last major bond issue advanced by the school system.

Fletcher said he does not support a move by the Wake County Board of Commissioners to take over ownership of school buildings.

"This school district has done an amazing job building schools on time (and) under budget," he said. 

Chairman Keith Sutton said he is glad to have the board back at full strength with nine members and that he sees less animosity flying around the board table.

"I think we are a more focused board," he said. 

But board member John Tedesco predicts battles ahead, especially as political tensions heat up between the school board, county commissioners and state lawmakers.

"We are going to have a long road ahead," Tedesco said.

The board has other big issues on its plate as well, including choosing a new superintendent and stabilizing student assignment after three years of shifting policy.

Fletcher was optimistic.

Wake Budget talks continue as Wake board swears in new member

"This board is made of people, and people, when they listen to each other and share ideas, can make amazing things happen," he said. 

Also during Tuesday's meeting, the school board heard from the public on a $1.4 billion proposed budget for the upcoming school year, which interim Superintendent Stephen Gainey calls conservative.

The proposal calls for the expansion of magnet programs and the opening of a new high school in the near future, but the goal is similar to last year – no reductions in staff and no significant cuts. To do so, it's asking for more money – $8.3 million – from the county.

The Wake County Public School System has projected 2 percent annual enrollment growth for the next decade and needs up to 16 new elementary schools, five middle schools and six high schools to keep up with the new students. Also, many older schools need extensive renovations.

Officials have estimated that construction and renovation needs could reach $2 billion by 2020. A bond for that amount could add as much as 16 cents to the property tax rate for Wake County residents.

While both school board and county commissioners recognize the need for a bond, they have butted heads over how school construction should be funded. In a joint meeting last month, the boards demonstrated the tension that exists between the Republican-led county commissioners and the Democratic-majority school board.

The commissioners maintain that they would be more fiscally responsible in operating the assets and that the move would allow the school board to concentrate on policy and curriculum.

Sutton likened the commissioners' effort to a "hostile takeover" of a business, and board member Susan Evans said it was a sign of disrespect.

Members of both boards said the acrimony between to the two elected bodies puts any appeal to voters for money at risk.

12 Comments

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  • 426X1E-6 Mar 20, 1:22 p.m.

    Seeing is believing.

  • WralCensorsAreBias Mar 19, 1:48 p.m.

    "I think the economy has rebounded enough to allot the needed money"

    Then do us all a favor, don't think. You're out of your mind if you think that is the case. It's about to get much worse, especially in education, because a new budget for the state is about to be released. What until you see that!

    As for the county taking over and being in charge, you bet. They should've done it years ago.

  • skipp2 Mar 19, 1:10 p.m.

    Since only two of the Board members have any business background in their resumes and experience- the rest are eductors or have experience in "the system" only, the County is correct in assessing that they need to be in charge of infrastructure as they are with the rest of the infrastructure in the County. The Board should only speak to curriculum and policy. Stop the power play and do what is right and intellegent!

  • whatelseisnew Mar 19, 1:08 p.m.

    "I don't think a .16 cent increase towards the property tax rate is that much to ask for of Wake County residents."

    Give them your money. I have zero interest in continuing to keep this defunct system alive. My taxes are too high. It is not simply a .16 cent increase which is insane. It is a mil rate added to the current already too high mil rate. What the school needs to do is CUT their budget not add to it. It is time to STOP building public schools and time to shift over to Charter and Private schools. It is time for people that think they can simply demand more money to have to COMPETE for that money instead of having more or less a MONOPOLY. It comes as no surprise to me that a board once again controlled by Democrats immediately seeks to ROB taxpayers.

  • karbattle1 Mar 19, 1:01 p.m.

    I would be more than happy to pay more in taxes if the board adopted neighborhood schools...

  • hooter483 Mar 19, 12:44 p.m.

    Fletcher was a joke from '93 to '05 and I am sure he has not changed except maybe for the worst.

  • PanthersFan45 Mar 19, 10:18 a.m.

    "The Wake County Public School System has projected 2 percent annual enrollment growth for the next decade and needs up to 16 new elementary schools, five middle schools and six high schools to keep up with the new students. Also, many older schools need extensive renovations."

    I think the economy has rebounded enough to allot the needed money to keep the classroom sizes acceptable and ensure students learn in a modern environment. Population growth drives much of this and at a minimum I think the schools should receive the funds they are asking for. A bond seems like the way to go. I don't think a .16 cent increase towards the property tax rate is that much to ask for of Wake County residents.

  • GeorgiaPeach70 Mar 19, 9:56 a.m.

    Wake County keeps circling the same old bowl....They need someone NEW to come in and shake things up, bring NEW ideas to the table and CHANGE things. Fix the schools, instead of the education lottery being used to fund schools it needs to ADD to the existing budget for schools and bring in extra money to fund school additions, schools upgrades, etc...etc...etc...Although, I think it is a lost cause right now...because until the Wake County school board starts putting the KIDS FIRST, there is just going to be the same old problems in the system...

  • CrewMax Mar 19, 9:29 a.m.

    Meet the new boss...Same as the old boss.

  • wildpig777 Mar 19, 9:03 a.m.

    MOST OF NC'S PROBLEMS begin and end with wake county.

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