Local News

Residents Sound Off on Wake County Budget

Posted January 14, 1998 12:00 a.m. EST

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

The people in charge of the forum boiled down Wake County's 400 page budget 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 million dollars a year to operate? Or that the county school system has over 10,000 employees? These are just some of the facts residents learned during 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 and refocus it back on the classroom," explains Tony Habit of the Wake Education Partnership. "What does spending mean in terms of an individual child and an individual teacher?"

The forums go much further than that, though. For the first time in the history of the Wake County school system, residents are getting the chance to 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 future presentations, especially because of the thoughtful questions.

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

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

Some other staggering statistics include the fact that 95% of the Wake County School System's operating budget goes toward staff salaries and benefits.

There's not a lot of wiggling room when administrators have to figure out ways 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, but questions and comments are limited to the operating budget -not- the capital budget, which is the fund for building schools.