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Residents Sound Off on Wake County Budget

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RALEIGH — Hundreds of millions of dollars of our money go to our schools. So whodecides how the money is spent? You can help. The first of a series ofpublic forums on school budgets was held Tuesday night in Wake County.

The people in charge of the forum boiled down Wake County's 400 pagebudget into just a 12 page presentation. But don't get the wrong idea. The residents who attended the forum learned lots of detailed information about where their tax dollars go.

Did you know running a typical high school in Wake County costs $7 milliondollars a year to operate? Or that the county school system has over10,000 employees? These are just some of the facts residents learnedduring the first of five forums held by the Wake Education Partnership.

"What we've sought to do is take it away from a political discussion andrefocus it back on the classroom," explains Tony Habit of the WakeEducation Partnership. "What does spending mean in terms of an individualchild and an individual teacher?"

The forums go much further than that, though. For the first time in thehistory of the Wake County school system, residents are getting the chanceto ask questions and comment on the county's half billion dollar budget before the funds get allocated.

Wake County resident Linda Johnson believes parents will tune in futurepresentations, especially because of the thoughtful questions.

Members of the Board of Commissioners and Board of Education in attendancehave high praise for the "educational" experience.

"I hope we will get the citizens, in fact, really to turn out," says WakeCounty Commissioner Les Merritt. "A lot can be learned from these."

Some other staggering statistics include the fact that 95% of the WakeCounty School System's operating budget goes toward staff salaries andbenefits.

There's not a lot of wiggling room when administrators have to figure outways to make budget cuts.

Wake Education Partnership Budget Forums:

Again, this was the first of 5 forums by the Wake Education Partnership.The next 4 are scheduled as follows. All meetings begin at 7 p.m:

  • Cary HS: Thursday, January 15
  • Broughton HS: Tuesday, January 20
  • West Lake Middle: Thursday, January 22
  • Millbrook HS: Tuesday, January 27
  • The public can attend as many forums as they'd like, butquestions and comments are limited to the operating budget -not- thecapital budget, which is the fund for building schools.