Local News

Wake County teachers worry about budget cuts

Posted November 18, 2008 9:42 p.m. EST
Updated November 19, 2008 5:55 p.m. EST

— The economic outlook for Wake County schools has gone from bad to worse. The system is being asked to return $5.4 million that the state had allocated to it. That means teachers could have to do with less.

"Somewhere along the line, it may not be a great public education for every child," said Tama Bouncer, teacher at Swift Creek Elementary School.

A request by the Wake County manager to cut an additional $5.7 million in county funding means the school system will be facing $11 million in cuts.

“Ultimately, any reduction in our funding will have either a direct or indirect impact on classrooms and students,” Superintendent Del Burns said.

Bouncer, a teacher and Vice President of the North Carolina Association of Educators in Wake County, said she is worried there will be losses in classroom supplies and employee benefits.

"That may become an issue,” she said.

There is also the possibility of layoffs. School board members are shy about that kind of talk at the moment. However, the money crunch could mean freezing open positions.

“Now, how many dollars that will accommodate is questionable. Beyond that, you are going to have to look for reductions wherever they are necessary,” county school board member Ron Margiotta said.

County money accounts for a third of the school system's budget. The state supplies 61 percent, and the federal government provides 6 percent.

“This will not be easy because we are a lean organization,” Burns said

The school system has to tell the state where it will make cuts by Dec. 19.

In July, the Wake County Board of Commissioners allotted the Wake County Public School System $319.2 million in the county budget for the 2008-2009 school year – nearly $36 million less than what the school board had requested.

On Oct. 21, Wake County commissioners decided to make an additional $80 million available for school projects that were shorted funds after the county was unable to sell bonds. Several weeks earlier, commissioners had voted to float a short-term, $300 million bond anticipation note to fund projects that had already started and to carry the county until the markets improved enough for a regular bond sale.

Officials said the $80 million, which would have been used for funding later in the building process, meant that multiyear assignment plans could be handed out. The money also funded a program to computers and technology up to date.