WCPSS superintendent reveals $1.6 billion budget for 2017-2018 school year
Posted April 4
Updated April 10
Cary, N.C. — Wake County school Superintendent Jim Merrill on Tuesday released his proposed $1.6 billion budget for the 2017-2018 school year.
Merrill said the proposed budget estimates are “fraught with great risk” as school leaders wait for the General Assembly to conclude its session.
The largest impact on the upcoming school year could be a provision in the current state budget that requires lower class sizes for kindergarten through third grade. Merrill said his proposed budget estimated the cost to fund 462 teachers at a cost of $26 million for elementary school classrooms without eliminating art, music and physical education.
Many districts said they would need to cut non-core classes to free up teachers and additional space.
Merrill said the district has budgeted $13 million for the addition of new teachers in the event that a proposal to fix the issue isn’t passed and is counting on an additional $13 million in funding from the state.
The budget calls for a local appropriation increase of $56,630,821 for the upcoming school year, which includes $8.8 million for four new schools, additional teachers and special education.
"It's a dollar amount that, again, is a guess, not knowing where the legislature might go on this. But I tried to signal at the same time, there could well be a cost on this if there is no change in the current class size legislation," Merrill said.
Should the pending legislation regarding class size pass, the local appropriation request would adjust to $43,456,821.
The proposed budget includes $10 million to increase the number of school counselors and social workers as part of a multi-year plan to expand resources. The American School Counselor Association recommends one counselor for every 250 students, but the Wake County Public School System currently employs one counselor for every 630 students in elementary school and one for every 393 students in high school.
"These are still identified needs that our community considers important. Our teachers have, our parents have or whatever it might be and we don't want that to get lost," Merrill said.
The budget also includes $488,000 to expand the Office of Equity Affairs.
School leaders said it is becoming more difficult to retain bus drivers for the 70,000 riders expected for the upcoming school year. Tuesday night a one-time retention bonus of $750 for bus drivers in June passed unanimously.
The budget for the 2017-2018 school year sets aside $2.2 million for salary adjustments that include bus driver compensation to make the positions more competitive with other districts.
State law requires the Board of Education to submit the budget to the county commissioner by May 15.
"Our board has to move money around, raise it, lower it. It's hard to know. I mention to the county manager yesterday, I said it's a fluid document," Merrill said.