Wake schools to lose $5.5M under new state budget

tgoldsmith@newsobserver.comJuly 24, 2013 

  • Naming new schools

    Wake County school board members agreed Tuesday to vote Aug. 6 on names for three new high schools, with likely choices emerging as Southwest Cary, South Garner and Friendship Apex.

    In Tuesday’s work session, the board’s consensus appeared to favor schools be named to closely identify with the largest nearby town. The delayed vote will allow time for additional community feedback, Chairman Keith Sutton said.

    “As we try to have communities more invested in our schools, the high schools take on a whole other level,” board member John Tedesco said. “It’s helpful down the road as we are building those relationships.”

    In 2011, the board recommended a new school near Apex be called West Apex High School. After hearing from the historic Friendship community, Sutton said, the board will considerate combining the names Apex and Friendship.

— Wake County schools will likely lose about $5.5 million in operating funds based on the new state budget nearing approval in the General Assembly, the schools’ chief financial officer told school board members Tuesday.

Cuts in instructional support, classroom teachers and teaching assistants will be partly offset by roughly $35 million in discretionary funding that the state had held back in recent years, but will be released in the new fiscal year, said David Neter, chief business officer.

Schools administrators said they will attempt to adjust funding from other sources to prevent overall losses in classroom positions. The system gets roughly $700 million of its billion-dollar-plus budget from the state, with the rest from county and federal sources.

“It’s one more funding reduction,” Neter said.

Noting that Wake’s annual per-pupil spending has declined steadily in recent years, board member Bill Fletcher asked whether the latest state cuts would reduce that figure further.

That will likely be the result, Neter said, when the roughly estimated $5.5 million cut is combined with a projected increase of thousands of students. However, the system has to wait for its specific allotment from the state Department of Public Instruction to determine exact figures.

Average per-pupil spending has declined from $8,220 in 2009 to $7,649 last year, according Wake schools figures.

Test, security funding

The budget includes increases in payments for students to take ACT tests and for school security.

Board member Deborah Prickett applauded the money for testing.

“That has helped so many students, especially in rural parts of the state, for kids that just don’t have the money to take that kind of test,” Prickett said.

One of the most potentially troublesome parts of the budget for Wake is the lack of a raise for teachers, whose pay has been increased only once –by 1.2 percent – since 2008.

“When you figure inflation in, they’re making less than they did in 2008,” Neter said.

During a break in the meeting, board member Kevin Hill said it will take time for the exact effect of the cuts to shake out.

“It’s going to hurt; it’s just not clear where,” Hill said. “You don’t forfeit $5 million after four or five years of cuts and not feel it.”

Building sale deferred

In another development, board members elected to put off selling the system’s former headquarters on Wake Forest Road in hopes of getting a higher offer than the $5.1 million on the table.

“I’m inclined to say ‘no’ to the bid,” Tedesco said.

The Wake Forest Road property was valued at $7.9 million when the board elected to move to leased property in Cary in 2010. More recently, it was appraised at $6.8 million.

Arguing that rising real estate prices would likely outstrip the $80,000 annual cost of maintaining the building, members elected to defer a motion to accept the $5.1 million offer.

Goldsmith: 919-829-8929

Cary News is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service