Local News

Wake school board pores over budget for cuts

Posted March 5, 2009 6:25 a.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:13 p.m. EDT

— Wake County school board members on Thursday examined the school district's budget line by line to find ways to cut costs.

Budget deficits at the state and county level mean the district could have a shortfall of about $40 million in the 2009-10 school year, Superintendent Del Burns said.

"We've always tried to be efficient, but now we may have to take measures that some may think (are) extreme," Burns said.

Board members looked at various money-saving measures, including increasing class sizes to reduce the number of teachers needed, eliminating some high school electives and ordering employees to do away with personal heaters, fans and coffee makers to cut electricity costs.

"It's going to be a tough choice," Chairwoman Rosa Gill said.

Until state lawmakers and county commissioners can set their budgets, Burns has ordered principals to fill no more than 95 percent of their openings. That means as many as 1,500 teachers and school employees whose contracts expire at the end of June could lose their jobs.

"I am not sure of how many of those we're going to be able to hire back. It just depends on our state allotment," Gill said.

The school district also plans to keep in place a hiring freeze on administrative positions, and Burns said $11 million in state and local cuts made in December also would become permanent.

Burns' budget proposal for the 2009-10 school year includes no increase in county funds from the $316 million provided this school year.

District administrators expect 2,300 new students to enroll in area schools next fall, meaning per-student spending would drop from $2,218 to $2,182.

"It is likely there will be larger class sizes. It is likely the level of services provided will change. We may have to eliminate some services," Burns said.

The school board plans to have several more budget workshops in the coming weeks before Burns submits his budget request to county commissioners in May.