Wake County Schools

Wake boards meet in joint session over school budget

Posted March 29, 2012 11:47 a.m. EDT
Updated March 29, 2012 7:54 p.m. EDT

— The Wake County Board of Education and the Wake County Board of Commissioners met together Thursday to talk about the school system's proposed $1.25 billion budget for the 2012-13 school year and how much the county will be able to contribute.

Superintendent Tony Tata's spending plan calls for nearly $9 million more in funding from the county – a 2.8-percent increase over the current budget. In recent years, the amount the county has allocated for the school system has remained unchanged.

Although commissioners have said they are willing to listen to Tata, they are not sure how much more they will be able to give since the commission's top priority for next year is not to raise taxes.

In an interview with WRAL News last week, Tata called his budget proposal "very solid."

"We're going to lay out our case and show that we have cut to the marrow of Wake County public schools, and we're going to present a case that we need that (extra) $8.8 million to invest in our people so that, in the fourth year of a very tough recession, we don’t have people walking away from us because some other places are providing higher pay or better options," he said.

Tata's budget, which calls for a 1 percent raise for teachers and a one-time bonus for most other school employees, takes into account cost increases due to an estimated additional 3,500 students and five new schools opening next year.

"We've taken our non-personnel budget as far down as we can," David Neter, the school system's chief business officer, said Thursday.

There are no proposed layoffs or job cuts and no changes to school and classroom staffing formulas.

The budget is $24.3 million less than last year, partly because of $28 million in expiring grants and an $8.7 million cut in state funding. Tata has said he plans to fill the gap and account for growing needs by using $28 million of the district's savings as well as the additional funding from the county.

Commissioners expressed concern about whether the district would be able to replenish its savings by next year, saying it was only "kicking the can down the road," meaning that, at some point, the district would have to make more cuts to programs and services and personnel.

The school board is accepting public feedback on the budget on the district's website. It's expected to formally vote on it next month.

Tata also presented to both boards a venture into a partnership with Wake Technical Community College that would open a vocational high school at an old Coca-Cola plant in downtown Raleigh.

The potential Career and Technical Education High School would open in 2013 and be housed in a 101,700 square-foot building on 15.8 acres of land at 2200 S. Wilmington St.

About 700 high school students would be able to take courses in 10 areas, including biopharmaceuticals, collision repair, heating and air-conditioning, nursing assistant, electronics, plumbing, simulation game development and welding.

In the evenings and on the weekends, the building would be used for adult classes.

Students would be able to earn college credit at the same time they are working toward their high school diploma.