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Wake County Reaches Budget Decision

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RALEIGH — The proposed Wake County budget is out, and school leaders, as expected, are not happy.

The school system wanted an extra $30 million a year for the next three years. They did not get it. The county's budget proposal does give taxpayers more county services overall without a tax increase.

The county's budget would give the schools a third of the new money available this year. More than $10 million will go towards helping struggling students, and improving teacher pay and recruitment. School leaders say it is not enough.

To make up the difference, the school wants the county to increase taxes by five cents, but the county manager voted no on that proposal. In fact, there are no new taxes in this plan.

The other $20 million will go to improve other county services, like the sheriff's department, which will get three million to add 23 officers. Another three million guarantees school nurses for the public schools. And Fuquay-Varina will get a staffed EMS squad from the public safety budget. Their volunteer force closed shop last April.

Additionally, one of every $20 the county shells out is a payment on debts to build schools, parks and the new jail.

School leaders say they will keep stumping for a tax hike.

"If we don't have sufficient funds, we will have to make some cuts," School Superintendent Bill McNeal says.

"We still have the opportunity to work with the commission to clarify the needs we have in terms of meeting the needs of children that are not yet at grade level," school board chairman Bill Fletcher says.

"At a time when a lot of peole are being laid off, there's shortfalls from the state," County Commission Chairman Michael Weeks says. "We need to make sure that we're spending the money we got efficiently before we start talking about a tax increase for any operation."

Wake County residents can weigh in on the budget plan. There are two public hearings on the county budget.

The first hearing is on June 4, at 2 p.m., and the second at 7 p.m. Both will be held at the Wake Commons building.

The final budget is due June 18.

The commission is lobbying the state for a 1-cent sales tax, which it shares with the state. The commissioners would then earmark all of that money, about $39 million, to schools.


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