Local Politics

Proposed Wake budget includes tax increase, about half of what school board asked for

Posted May 9, 2018 7:03 p.m. EDT
Updated May 9, 2018 10:44 p.m. EDT

— Wake County Manager David Ellis on Wednesday proposed a $1.32 billion county budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, including a 2.9-cent increase to the county's property tax rate.

The budget proposal would provide an extra $30.1 million for the Wake County Public School System, which is about half of the record $58.9 million increase the Wake County Board of Education requested last week in the school district's proposed budget. Interim Superintendent Del Burns said nearly $48 million more is needed for the growing district to maintain current levels of service.

Ellis said he gave "full consideration of the request" before proposing the lower level of funding. The $461 million included in the spending plan for the district would raise per-pupil spending in Wake County to $2,618, which Ellis said would be higher than before the recession a decade ago.

School funding has been a heated topic for commissioners in recent months. Two commissioners lost in Tuesday's primaries to challengers who called for full funding of the school district.

Ellis' budget proposal also includes a commitment to put roofs over more people's heads.

Some 93,000 people in the county live at or below the poverty line, which Ellis said would make them the third-largest city in the county. The county needs about 56,000 units of affordable housing, so he wants to set aside the $15 million generated by a penny of the property tax rate each year to expand the county's current program of building 100 affordable units a year to 500 a year. The budget proposal also includes funding for a women's homeless shelter.

"Through this budget, we can truly make a difference in the lives of our residents, especially those living on the margins," Ellis told the Board of Commissioners.

The proposed tax increase would add $58 to the annual tax bill for the owner of a $200,000 home. Ellis said the increase is needed because county growth at the current rate would produce only an extra $24 million next year, which wouldn't come close to covering the county's needs. The increase would bring in $41.6 million in added revenue for the county.

Public hearings on the plan are scheduled for 2 p.m. May 21 at the Board of Commissioners meeting at the Wake County Justice Center and 7 p.m. that day at the Wake County Commons Building.

The Board of Commissioners plans to approve a final budget at its June 4 meeting.