Wake schools superintendent unveils $1.25B budget
Wake County schools Superintendent Tony Tata on Tuesday unveiled a $1.25 billion operating budget for the 2012-13 school year, a $24.3 million decrease from 2011-12.
Despite the leaner budget, he said, he doesn't anticipate any layoffs.
"We do not propose cutting any people," Tata said. "We're down to the bone, we believe, on personnel."
The spending plan decrease represents a loss of funding from expiring federal grants, as well as cuts to state funding.
The loss, Tata said, is partially offset by increasing spending from the school system's fund balance and by a requested additional $8.8 million appropriation from Wake County.
Tata told school board members at a meeting Tuesday that his budget proposal renews the school system's investment in teachers with a 1 percent raise – the first in four years – and a $500 one-time bonus for most other employees.
"We have 18,000 employees and they haven't seen raise in four years," Tata said. "In a down economy, we're trying to show our people we care about them."
Funds are also allocated for placing resources at historically low-performing or under-enrolled schools, and the budget takes into account more efficient operations, such as a new bus routing system.
Board member Keith Sutton said he was still digesting the details of Tata's budget proposal, but his initial response was positive.
"I'm pleased with it and I hope we can find a way to close the gap of $8.8 million," Sutton said.
Commissioner Joe Bryan said Wake County's top priority for next year's budget is not to raise taxes. While he said the commission would consider Tata's request for the $8.8 appropriation, he doubts that much money will be available.
Also Tuesday, district administrators told board members that nearly 75 percent of parents who took part in the first phase of the Wake County student assignment plan's choice selection process will get their first school choice.
The parents of 19,048 students participated in the first round last month. Of those students, 8,911 are rising kindergarteners. Of those kindergarteners, 92 percent will get their first choice. Parents will receive their notifications by March 16.
Some board members were concerned that several schools are being under-selected and that, based on the choices, 19 schools will see an increase in the number of students who receive free and reduced-price lunches.
A second choice selection round is scheduled from March 19 through April 9 for any parent who didn't participate in the first round. Assignments based on those choices will be made by mid-April.
Under the new assignment model, parents rank a list of schools based on their home address. Once a student is assigned to a school, he or she is guaranteed a seat in that school's feeder pattern as long as he or she is enrolled in the school system.
Parents of students who are new or returning to the school system, rising kindergartners and parents who want their children to switch schools must go through the selection process.
The school board put off voting on a controversial change to school start times to save as much as $10 million in transportation costs.
The move would change arrival and dismissal times at many schools by as much as an hour.
More than 100 buses would also be taken off the street, students would spend more time on the bus and the number of students on each route would also increase.
Parents have inundated the district with complaints that the proposed changes would negatively affect their families' schedules.
Less than a week after pleading guilty to trespassing at a school board meeting two years ago, NAACP state President Rev. William Barber and several other protesters returned to the meeting Tuesday.
Barber and 29 others were banned in 2010 after disrupting meetings over the board changing its school board policy.
Twenty-one pleaded guilty on Friday. They arranged a deal over the weekend with the board to return.