Local News

Public Weighs In On Wake County School Budget Increase

Posted June 6, 2005 6:37 a.m. EDT

— Wake County commissioners gave the public an opportunity to weigh in on a proposed budget increase for the Wake County School System.

A large number of the people who showed up Monday supported a $29 million budget increase for the school system. But a preliminary budget allocates only $12 million in additional funding.

Much of the audience wore green, including Commissioner Betty Lou Ward, to show support for education.

"Just what does it take for us to understand that children are our future? We will not leave them behind," said Charlotte Turpin, who supports the full budget increase.

East Millbrook Principal David Ansbacher said he worried about the message the shortfall in the budget sends to teachers and students.

"Public support means a lot to those teachers," Ansbacher said. "And this sends a message to them that their role is not important, but I also worry about what it says to students."

But commissioners must also consider the bigger picture, some opponents to the full increase said. The school system is in the middle of a fraud investigation of its transportation department, where employees allegedly spent millions of dollars on personal items in an alleged scheme.

"You have given this school board generous increases in funding and they have taken advantage of that generosity by mismanaging the funds made available to them," said Diane Deter, who is against the full increase.

Yet the school board says that if commissioners do not meet the full request, special programs, teacher assistant positions and dental benefits for teachers could be cut.

"I'd like to touch on the transportation scandal. Two million -- $4 million -- I'm not sure what it is, but I'm pretty sure that snafu alone could have covered dental benefits," said Donna Solari, also against the increase.

"It's a shame because that's $4 million that's missing that could have been used to fund some of these additional requests that they have. But I'm not going to make a decision based upon that," said Wake County Commissioner Herb Council.

Commissioners will talk more about the budget in a work session on June 13 and will take a final vote on June 20.