Wake GOP and school board differ over county pay raise for teachers

Posted by T. Keung Hui on June 18, 2014 

Wake County school board members and the Wake County Republican Party are offering two widely differing reactions to the pay raise that the county commissioners approved on Monday.

As noted in today’s article, school administrators gave their analysis of the $3.75 million in raises from liquor sales that the Wake County Board of Commissioners awarded Monday in lieu of the $29.1 million pay plan the school board had backed. The Wake GOP was praising commissioners while the school board was mocking the amount.

The school board had wanted to give all employees a 3.5 percent locally funded pay raise that would have given the most junior teacher at least $1,200 more per year. School administrators said the county plan, which only covers teachers, would give an average raise of between $200 and $300 per year – before taxes.

Click here to view the presentation that was shared with the school board on Tuesday.

David Neter, the school system’s chief business officer, said school staff had asked for flexiblity in how to use the $3.75 million because of the need to deal with extra local costs that the state could put on the district this year. But the commissioners stipulated that that the $3.75 million could only go toward teacher pay.

The school district supplements the state base pay for teachers on a sliding scale ranging from 14.25 percent to 17.75 percent depending on experience and advanced degrees.

School staff say that it would cost about $1.4 million to raise the supplement by 0.25 percent. This means it would cost about $2.8 million to give a supplement increase of 0.5 percent and $4.2 million for an 0.75 percent increase.

Sarcastic cries of “woo hoo” came from board members when Neter showed how much the increase would be on a monthly basis before taxes.

Neter said an increase in the supplement of 0.5 percent to a beginning teacher with just a bachelor’s degree would be $12.83 more per month before taxes. This caused school board member Kevin Hill to quip that it’s “maybe breakfast at McDonald’s.”

The chart shows that same beginning teacher would get $19.83 more per month before taxes if the supplement went up 0.75 percent. But Neter said the increase would be less than $19 per month because the $3.75 million wouldn’t cover that amount.

To further complicate matters, Neter said the district really wouldn’t be able to effectively manage an increase of between 0.5 percent and 0.75 percent. He said they’d have to recommend either going with the 0.5 percent increase that leaves money on the table or recommend an 0.75 percent increase that would require dipping into the fund balance to make up the $469,000 difference.

School board vice chairman Tom Benton asked if there was any way they could use the $3.75 million to give raises to teacher assistants and other support staff making $18,000 to $20,000 per year. Neter said no based on the county’s resolution.

School board member Jim Martin joked that it “drives you to drink,” in reference to how ABC money is being used by the county for the raises.

Benton replied “drink and gamble,” a play on how the state House would fund raises for teacher from projected increases in lottery revenue.

Benton fired a barb right at commissioners during board member comments at the regular meeting.

“I also want to thank our county commissioners for providing a $3 to $8 a week raise for our teachers,” Benton said. “I’ll just leave it at that.”

Contrast this with this press release sent Tuesday by the Wake County Republican Party:

Truthful Tuesday Addresses the 2015 Wake County Budget

RALEIGH – Today, the Wake County Republican Party thanks the Wake County Board of Commissioners for their bi-partisan efforts in passing a new county budget for next year.

“Yesterday, by bi-partisan vote, the Wake County Commissioners passed the 2015 budget which now makes Wake County the state leader in supplementing teacher pay,” said Donna Williams, Chair of Wake GOP. “In just another example of their proven leadership, our commissioners worked very hard to make this new budget happen without increasing our local taxes. With the Legislature poised to take positive action on teacher pay, the Wake County commissioners remain committed to helping our teachers here in Wake County and may take more action once the State Legislature has a final budget.”

“However, the hard work is not done,” continued Ms. Williams. “One concern for the County Commissioners remains the $35-$65 million in unspent funds the Wake County school system still holds. These tax dollars, taken from Wake County taxpayers in past years, have not been spent on the budget items and programs as promised. Why? These funds could be making a difference right now by paying for even more increases to teacher pay supplements, new programs, and other items the school board now claims they must have. It is outrageous for the School Board and Democrats to call for more funding when past funding has not been spent as promised. Our children and teachers deserve better.”

“The fiscally sound budget passed by the Wake County Commissioners strikes the balance between the many needs of the county without adding taxes on job creators and Wake County residents. With bi-partisan support, the commissioners provided capital funding for the next round of school construction while taking the necessary actions to maintain our Triple A credit rating with the three rating agencies. To quote Commissioner Rich Gianni: ‘Losing the Triple A credit rating could cost the taxpayers of Wake County over $20 million in additional interest on the debt, and force property taxes to go up in the near future.’ The county budget also provides funding for Health and Human Services, mental health programs, fire protection, more school nurses, and Wake Technical Community College.”

Ms. Williams concluded. “We thank our commissioners for their excellent work on the budget and their continued public service to our great county.”

The school system says it only has $6 million left in its fund balance after appropriating $30 million to help balance the new budget.

The Wake County Democratic Party had criticized the budget vote on Monday.

It’s another sign how this year’s commissioners’ elections are a big deal. Republicans hold a 4-3 majority, but all four GOP seats are on the November ballot.

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