School board members are weighing whether they should ask the Wake County Board of Commissioners for more than a $35.7 million increase in funding this year after getting a record $44.6 million local spending boost last year.
Wake County school board members reviewed Superintendent Jim Merrill’s budget proposal on Tuesday, including looking at things they’d like to do but can’t unless they ask commissioners for a bigger amount or move money from other areas. Board members talked about how – even with last year’s budget increase – they’re still lagging behind how much they were getting before the recession.
“We’ve got a ways to go just to get back to where we were in 2008, and I know it can’t all happen at once,” said school board member Kevin Hill. “But if we don’t start to make some incremental movement toward getting out of that hole, we’ll never get out of that hole.”
The district’s per-pupil funding – including county, state and federal dollars – is 0.2 percent less than it was in the 2008-09 school year. Enrollment has increased 14.3 percent in that time span.
Merrill is proposing a $1.5 billion operating budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year that starts in July. Much of the discussion is how the school system will spend the $421.7 million that Merrill wants to request from commissioners.
School leaders say most of the $35.7 million local funding increase is needed to keep up with growth, pay for the impact of state legislative decisions and continue programs begun last year. About 10 percent of the local increase would go toward new and expanded programs, including boosting funding for arts programs.
“This is not a gratuitous request,” Merrill told the board. “This is modest.”
Merrill noted that the budget doesn’t include a request for any locally funded pay raises. The county funded across-the-board raises last year. This year, Merrill is hoping the state will provide pay raises.
The board reviewed the staff’s answers to more than 50 questions and comments. For instance:
▪ Providing a full-time instructional resource teacher at every elementary school would cost an additional $3.4 million.
▪ Providing a full-time intervention teacher at every elementary school would cost an additional $1.6 million.
▪ It would require an unspecified amount of money to restore full custodial services at schools. Wake now spends $1.25 per square foot compared to $1.56 per square foot in 2008.
School board Chairman Tom Benton told his colleagues he would be reluctant to ask for more than a $35.7 million increase.
“I hope we do not increase our request to the county commissioners,” Benton said.
The school board and county commissioners will hold a joint meeting on April 26.
The budget public hearing drew only two speakers: Scott McInnes, the athletic director of Millbrook High School, and Tony Lewis, the athletic director of Sanderson High School. Both men thanked the board for continuing a five-year plan to raise the pay for teachers who perform extra duties such as being academic and athletic coaches.
“It’s going to go a long ways in the county,” Lewis said. “It will make a difference.”
Start times changing for six schools
The Wake County school board approved Tuesday bell schedules for the 2016-17 school year that will change the start and end times for six schools.
Knightdale High School will start 40 minutes earlier at 7:25 a.m. Lufkin Road Middle School in Apex and Wendell Middle School will start 45 minutes later at 8:15 a.m.
Green Elementary School in Raleigh will start 45 minutes later at 9:15 a.m. Fuquay-Varina Elementary School will start five minutes later at 9:15 a.m.
Enloe High School in Raleigh will shorten its day by 20 minutes with a 7:25 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. schedule.