Wake County commissioners are set to decide on a county budget tomorrow (Monday) and chief among the questions they will answer is just how much they should raise taxes.
County manager Jim Hartmann’s budget calls for a 2.9-cent tax increase, or about $77 for an average homeowner in Wake County.
Commissioners are considering an additional one-penny increase – to 3.9 cents – to close the gap between what Hartmann proposed for the school system and what the school system asked for.
That would push the average homeowner’s tax increase from $77 per year to about $103 per year.
But let’s consider that gap – It equals about $14 million, about two-thirds of what the school system generally has in its savings. The school board’s orginal budget request was for an increase of about $48 million. In his proposal to county commissioners, Hartmann proposed an increase of $34 million.
Considering the spartan nature of recent budgets, school system officials probably should have been quite happy to have a budget proposed that approved nearly 75 percent of their request. That’s what Hartmann’s budget plan does.
Commission chairman James West, who has been a supporter of increased funding for schools in the past, has said commissioners should be careful not to bite off more than the county can chew. He fears state lawmakers may punish counties for large increases in funding for schools. That may be a bit of stretch, but given some of the legislation lawmakers have passed in the last couple sessions, we suppose nothing is off the table.
More to the point here is that Wake County, in the exuberance of a new majority on the board of commissioners should be careful not to try to replace all the funding shortfalls of recent years in one fell swoop.
Hartmann’s budget is generous to the school system and the same board of commissioners will be asked to approve more budgets before its membership changes.
Put another way, there will be more chances to increase school funding on a more manageable schedule that doesn’t stick it to taxpayers any more than they are already being asked to pony up.