Local News

Wake School Board Gives Initial OK to Cutting Raises

Posted June 26, 2007 6:00 a.m. EDT
Updated June 26, 2007 11:31 p.m. EDT

— Wake County school board members gave tentative approval Tuesday to a plan to cut $4 million in proposed pay raises as a way to make up a $5 million budget shortfall for the 2007-2008 school year.

The board had hoped to award a 0.25 percent increase for teachers and a 1.23 percent increase for non-teaching staff in the county-funded supplemental pay above the state-funded salaries for their positions. Those boosts would be eliminated. Other cuts would come from pay raises for extra-duty employees such as coaches and band directors.

The board did decide that it should take $800,000 from its rainy-day fund to cover some expenses.

In Wake County, the current supplements for teachers range from $3,700 to about $13,000.

the school system's chief business officer said that even the small increases help the system compete for good employees.

"We're competing with the private sector. We're competing for bus mechanics and plumbers. We're competing in all of those areas," David Neter said.

With the supplements in place now, a starting teacher in Wake County can expect to make about $32,000 a year. A teacher with his or her master's degree and 15 years of service makes about $50,000 a year.

The school board is expected to take a final vote at its July 17 meeting.

School board members also decided to cut more than $190,000 that had been designated to start lacrosse programs at 19 high schools.

The decisions have some concerned.

"The thing I'm more concerned about is the ESP -- the support staff, the TAs, the bus drivers, the cafeteria workers," said Jennifer Lanane, president of the Wake County chapter of the North Carolina Association of Educators. "That 1.23 (percent) that they were going to add and now are talking about not adding, that concerns me because we're talking about the people making the least amount of money, and we're talking about having them balance the budget."

Last month, the school system requested $305 million to keep up with growth and the influx of students. Last week, the Wake County Board of Commissioners approved a 0.8 cent increase in the county property tax rate to give the school system $300 million.

This year's proposed county budget includes a property tax hike to help pay for growth. To put it in perspective, the owner of a $200,000 home will have to pay about $88 more in taxes.

The system will also use more than $800,000 from its reserve fund.

Some raise for school workers is not out of the question. The North Carolina Legislature is proposing raises for state employees: a 5 percent raise for teachers and a 4 percent raise for other school staff.