Wake Ed

June 9, 2014

Wake County school board against using its reserves to pay for teacher raises

Wake County school board member Bill Fletcher criticizes county commissioners for asking the district to dip into its fund balance to pay for teacher raises.

As the Wake County Board of Commissioners talks today about how to raise teacher pay, school leaders are panning the idea on the table for funding them.

The school board wants $29.1 million from the county to provide all school employees a 3.5 percent raise that would give teachers at least $1,000 more a year. But commissioners want the school district to dip into its reserves to provide smaller raises of around $237 a year.

At last week’s school board meeting, school board member Bill Fletcher asked board vice chairman Tom Benton to “role play” with him about the county proposal.

“Son, I’d like to give you an increased allowance,” Fletcher said.

“Okay,” Benton responded.

“Now let’s go to your piggyback and open it up and what we find in there, I’m going to let you use and call that your increased allowance,” Fletcher said. “How’s that going to work?”

“I don’t think so,” Benton answered.

“Well, that’s kind of what the county commission has put on the table relative to we’re going to support increasing teacher supplement and we’re going to ask you to go into your bank account to pay for it,” Fletcher said.

Commissioners passed a motion last week pledging to raise the amount it supplements teacher pay to the highest in the state. Wake has the second-highest average supplement of $6,204 a year to Chapel Hill-Carrboro’s $6.441.

But the vote came with the stipulation that the pay raises wouldn’t increase taxes. Commissioners said they’d ask the school board to dip into the district’s undesignated fund balance, which school officials say only has about $6 million left because $30 million is being used to balance the new budget.

In addition to questioning depleting what’s left in reserves, school board members say it’s unwise to use one-time funds for recurring expenses such as salaries.

The commissioners will hold a budget work session at 9 a.m. today in Room 2800 at the Wake County Justice Center, 300 S. Salisbury Street, Raleigh. The vote on the budget is expected next Monday.

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The WakeEd blog is devoted to discussing and answering questions about the major issues facing the Wake County school system. WakeEd is maintained by The News & Observer's Wake schools reporter, T. Keung Hui.

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