Wake County school employees may see smaller pay raises than proposed this year if the school district doesn’t get its $48.3 million increase requested in local funding.
County Manager Jim Hartmann has recommended giving the school system a $34.6 million funding increase – $13.7 million less than the school board’s requested total of $389.8 million from the county. School administrators said Tuesday that unless they get more they’d have to look at making up the gap from the $23.8 million in proposed pay raises for all 18,000 school employees – which would be a hard cut to make.
“Our needs and deferred needs from the investment of human capital are here and today, regardless of what the state does or doesn’t do,” David Neter, Wake’s chief business officer, told the school board.
Neter said the system has to fund items that respond to growth, inflation or mandates from the state. That means the gap has to be made up with money slated for new programs, which are mostly the proposed pay raises:
▪ A $16 million teacher salary increase, the first step of a plan to raise salaries to the national average by 2020.
▪ A $6 million salary increase to provide a 3-percent raise for support staff, who includes teacher assistants, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, maintenance workers and clerical staff.
▪ A $1.8 million increase in extra-duty pay for athletic and academic coaches, the first raise in the pay scale for many such positions since 1987.
Hartmann has called his proposed 10 percent increase in school funding a “significant commitment to education.” But school supporters urged the Wake County Board of Commissioners at Monday’s budget public hearings to provide the requested 14 percent increase.
The commissioners will hold a work session next week and the budget vote on June 15.
School board chairwoman Christine Kushner said it’s premature to speculate on whether the proposed pay raises will be cut. She said they need to find out what the state, which funds 59 percent of the district’s $1.4 billion operating budget, will provide this year.
“There are so many variables right now,” she said.
Neter said the state House budget partially funds some of the things the district wants. But there’s no guarantee that the state Senate will include those items, such as funding for student growth, driver education and the current level of teacher assistants.
The school board approved Tuesday a $10 increase in the fee for driver education to the state-allowed maximum of $65 per student, in case state funding is eliminated. Administrators say, however, the $65 fee doesn’t cover the cost of operating the program.
Hui: 919-829-4534; Twitter: @nckhui
Collaborative learning areas approved
In other action Tuesday:
▪ The school board approved spending $887,000 to add collaborative learning areas to the renovation of Brooks Elementary School in Raleigh and the construction of the new Bryan Road Elementary School in Garner.
Commons areas will be added to both schools where furniture can be moved and walls can be removed or erected so that students can work in large groups, small groups or on their own. District leaders hope to incorporate these kinds of features in all 171 schools as a way to improve student learning.
▪ The school board gave final approval to a policy that regulates bringing live animals to schools as classroom pets and for instructional purposes.
The policy would require investigating known student and staff allergies and health issues that would be aggravated by having the animal in class and giving parents the opportunity to object or opt out.