Wake County Schools

Wake County schools reveal 2016-2017 budget

Posted March 15, 2016 7:30 p.m. EDT
Updated March 15, 2016 8:05 p.m. EDT

School bus

— Increasing the Wake County Public School System’s graduation rates and opening new schools to address student growth were key points in the proposed $1.5 billion 2016-2017 budget proposal announced Tuesday night.

The proposal, delivered by superintendent Jim Merrill and chief operating officer David Neter included a $35.7 million increase in local funding, more than 75 percent of which is dictated by enrollment growth, prior commitments and the effect of recent legislative decisions, school officials said.

The budget also includes $2.3 million earmarked for the second year of a five-year commitment to increase performance pay to academic and athletic coaches. The district opted to defer a request for funding to increase employee pay in anticipation of a statewide pay increase.

School officials said that even though local county appropriations have increased since 2008, state funding is down 1.9 percent and federal funding is down 1.6 percent. That means that total per-pupil funding is still lower than it was eight years ago.

“I recognize and truly appreciate last year’s local appropriation was the largest in county history. This year’s proposal reflects the magnitude of the remaining backlog,” said Merrill. “While the recession of 2008 was a catalyst, continuous enrollment growth and shifting revenues since that time have prolonged our challenge.”

School officials said that about 10 percent of their funding request will focus on new or expanding programs, including spending $700,000 to continue the redesign of East Wake High School that began in 2015. District leaders also hope to build staff capacity to integrate technology into classroom lessons, fund new magnet programs and restore previous cuts to the band program.