Wake County school board delays vote on budget cuts

Wake schools face $17.5 million budget shortfall

Wake County school board Chairman Tom Benton talks about impact of staff's recommended budget cuts.
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Wake County school board Chairman Tom Benton talks about impact of staff's recommended budget cuts.

The Wake County school board delayed voting on proposed budget cuts because two board members were absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

Board chairman Tom Benton and Zora Felton were not at the meeting. So the other seven board members decided to hold off on discussing proposed cuts, including a controversial plan to reduce custodial services.

Administrators have made several recommendations to close a $17.5 million budget gap. Among them is a plan to clean schools two days a week instead of three, which would bring a savings of $3.6 million.

Some parents have said they worry a reduction in vacuuming and sweeping would lead to health concerns and put an extra burden on busy teachers.

Other recommended cuts include adjusting school temperatures by one degree to save $405,000 and reducing instructional supplies by $3.04 per student to save $481,000.

“The balancing and cutting was distributed across multiple areas,” said David Neter, chief operating officer for Wake schools.

School board member Bill Fletcher said leaders are trying to “distribute the pain” of budget cuts by spreading them throughout several different areas.

“There was no way we could do so at this point, after years of reductions, and completely insulate schools and classrooms,” Fletcher said. “The proverbial down-to-the bone is not a metaphor used lightly.”

If the board reduces custodial services, it will be reminiscent of the recession.

In 2011, Wake cut 72 full-time custodial positions and decreased school cleaning from five to two days a week. In 2012, Wake was able to bring back one day of cleaning, increasing the number of days to three.

Because of the reduced cleanings, more Wake teachers vacuum their classrooms after students leave for the day.

The Wake school board had considered adding $7.3 million to this year’s budget to allow for daily cleanings, but that is no longer a possibility after the Wake County Board of Commissioners gave $11.3 million less than the amount the school board requested.

The state legislature approved teacher pay raises that were larger than expected, changing how much Wake will pay teachers in supplements and further widening the budget gap.

Funding per student in Wake County is less than it was in 2008. State and federal funding were reduced by 1.9 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively.

Madison Iszler: 919-836-4952; @madisoniszler