Most of the argument during public hearings on Wake County’s 2015 budget was over education, which accounts for about 51 percent of annual spending. But there’s much more to the $1.066 billion budget approved by the Board of Commissioners this week. Here are some highlights:
Wake County Public Schools will receive $341.4 million, an increase of nearly $14 million over fiscal 2014. The schools plan to add literacy initiatives, expand pre-K services, add Spanish and Chinese language immersion programs and add staff at high schools with graduation rates below 80 percent. But the school spending plan could change, depending on the state’s education budget, which the N.C. General Assembly has not yet approved.
The county also will fund more than $391 million in building projects, including renovations, repairs and new construction. Wake Technical Community College will receive $16.4 million in operating funds, an increase of $287,000 over the previous budget year. The funding includes startup costs for the new Vernon Malone College and Career Academy. The county also will fund nearly $63 million in capital projects at Wake Tech campuses, including renovations, repairs and new construction.
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The budget includes $1.4 million in capital funds for library materials and collections, and $860,000 for upgrades to existing libraries. That includes $500,000 for preliminary design for Middle Creek and Fuquay-Varina Community Libraries and Cary Regional Library.
The county will give $60,892 in 2015 to Communities in Schools, a dropout prevention agency, and $40,000 to the East Wake Education Foundation, which works to improve early childhood development among families in need.
Parks and open space
The 2015 budget includes $2.5 million for the operation of parks and open space, and $520,000 for the purchase of three parcels of land in eastern Wake County that will provide additional space for hiking, paddling and horseback riding. The budget also includes $250,000 for improvements at existing parks.
Public safety and courts
The budget includes $136.5 million for public safety, an increase of $2.6 million over the past year. Additional funds will help expand ambulance service; add blood/alcohol analysis equipment and chemists for the City-County Bureau of Identification; and provide courthouse security.
The county also will spend $2.6 million in capital funds in fiscal 2015 to renovate the Wake County Courthouse, and $8.1 million to begin replacing its aging radio communications system in partnership with the town of Cary.
The budget includes $5.6 million for public health, nearly $187 million for human services and $2.3 million for environmental services. The 2015 budget provides $827,000 to develop additional affordable housing.
It includes funding for two additional food inspectors and for the seasonal inspection of pools; for six additional child protective services workers; programs to reduce the prevalence of STDs; and for 10 additional public health nurses in schools.
The budget includes continued funding for 36 positions added in February to speed processing of Food & Nutrition and Medicaid processing.
The budget allots $406,000 to support The Healing Place, a recovery and rehabilitation facility for homeless people with alcohol and drug dependency.
The budget includes $1,485,000 for business development grants to five employers: Credit Suisse, Novartis, Red Hat, NetApp and MetLife.
Culture and tourism
The county will give $50,000 in 2015 to support the N.C. Symphony; $284,161 to support the Wake County Arts Council; and $650,000 to Marbles Kids Museum.
The budget includes $20.1 million for the Raleigh Convention Center; $1 million for the N.C. Museum of Art; $4.8 million for the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau; $200,000 for the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences; $1 million for PNC Center; $1 million for Cary Sports Facilities (WakeMed Soccer Park, USA Baseball Complex and Cary Tennis Park); and $100,000 for St. Augustine’s College track.