Local News

Wake school system's financial future uncertain

Posted February 18, 2009 12:57 p.m. EST
Updated February 18, 2009 4:10 p.m. EST

— The sagging economy has left Wake County school board members and county commissioners with a complicated budget equation that equals big question marks for the future of the county and its students.

At a joint meeting Tuesday, members of both boards saw how much the economy has thrown off predictions for spending and how much money the school system still owes on other projects and bonds.

"Everybody is having to respond differently to the current economics," Wake County Manager David Cooke said. "It's no different for the county or the school system. We don't have the revenues we've had in the past, and it requires us to change things."

School board members say the economy has thrown off projections for school population growth dramatically because those predictions were forecast during a good economy.

Superintendent Del Burns said the school system no longer expects school enrollment to increase as fast, especially at the elementary level.

"Usually, we anticipate more growth in a good economy, less in a bad economy," Burns said.

School board chairwoman Rosa Gill said the school system might not recover for the next three years.

Cooke said projections for the county are also off.

"We estimated sales tax and property taxes would continue to increase, and now that’s not true," he said. "If we adjust for those predicted drops, the cumulative 10-year effect will be a loss of $182 million. We won’t be able to move ahead on all projects"