Local News

Calls Grow to Give School Boards Taxing Authority

Posted March 21, 2008 6:28 p.m. EDT
Updated March 21, 2008 7:25 p.m. EDT

— More people are demanding a charge in state law to let local school board control their own purse strings.

Under North Carolina law, school boards make educational policy and oversee the programs, but county commissioners determine how much local funding the school districts receive.

Cary Town Councilman Jack Smith said he thinks the school board isn't responsive to parents' concerns about year-round schools and student reassignments because they can't be held accountable for funding choices.

"Just like with any problem-solving, you have to go to the source, and the source of all this is the taxing authority," Smith said.

Eighty percent of the school boards nationwide have the authority to raise taxes to fund the educational program. Not having that authority is akin to the General Assembly approving municipal budgets, officials said.

"We're really in a small minority of school boards, having to turn to another board for funding of their needs," said Lori Millberg, chairwoman of the Wake County Board of Education.

Smith is pushing the idea of giving the school board the purse strings.

"By having it all together, you have complete accountability with one group," he said. "It forces the school system to partner with parents on a program of education that works."

Commissioner Lindy Brown said she is open to changing the system, although she believes the current arrangement works.

"I do believe in collective collaborations and would support one way or the other," Brown said.

Shifting the taxing authority would take legislative approval.

"We are perfectly ready to be held accountable to voters for the amount of money we spend," Millberg said.