Local News

N.C. public schools chief talks temporary sales tax

Posted June 3, 2009 12:29 p.m. EDT
Updated June 3, 2009 2:05 p.m. EDT

— The chief executive officer of North Carolina's public schools says a tax increase is necessary to spare schools some dramatic budget cuts.

Bill Harrison said Wednesday that he thinks lawmakers should consider a temporary sales-tax increase or a tax hike on cigarettes and alcohol to buffer education from deep spending cuts.

"The budget, as we see it now, will be devastating to public schools. And I think it's time we consider another source of revenue," Harrison said. "I think that if we don’t find increased revenue, we will be hurt."

The budget plans, as they are laid out right now, reduce the number of teachers, an increased the class size … he said he would want the money to go to help fund schools with a low tax base and administrating a school building.

He also said it was likely lawmakers would increase class sizes to narrow a $4.6 billion budget gap for next year but urged them to exempt such a change in grades K-3.

Increasing class sizes would mean some teachers would lose their jobs.

"There has to be a class-size increase," Harrison said. "Probably 85 to 91 percent of our budget is people. Most of our people are classroom teachers."

Harrison said he was concerned that proposed budget reductions in the public schools would send education back 20 or 30 years in the process.

Harrison was Gov. Beverly Perdue's handpicked leader to run the public schools. He said he doesn't know whether Perdue supports all of his suggestions.