Wake Ed

Will Wake families feel the pain of school budget cuts? Answers come Tuesday

Delmi Umana, head custodian at Hodge Road Elementary School in Knightdale, N.C., cleans the rug in a classroom at the school on July 26, 2016. The Wake County school board reduced how often schools were cleaned last year to deal with a budget shortfall.
Delmi Umana, head custodian at Hodge Road Elementary School in Knightdale, N.C., cleans the rug in a classroom at the school on July 26, 2016. The Wake County school board reduced how often schools were cleaned last year to deal with a budget shortfall. ehyman@newsobserver.com

What will the Wake County school system do to balance the budget a year after having cut back on school cleanings, made school thermometer settings less comfortable and provided less money for schools to hire teachers?

Wake County families and school employees will find out the answer Tuesday when school administrators make initial recommendations on how to deal with a budget hole of more than $20 million. The school system is dealing with state-legislated budget changes and getting less than what it wanted from the Wake County Board of Commissioners.

Commissioners gave the school board $21 million of its $45.2 million requested increase in funding. The majority of commissioners defended the increase, but it’s left school board members questioning the relationship between the two bodies.

School leaders wanted the $45.2 million increase to help cover things such as hiring more counselors and social workers, increasing pay for bus drivers, keeping up with growth, offering new magnet school themes and expanding the Office of Equity Affairs. The new counselors and social workers alone would cost $10 million this year.

It’s uncertain how many of the new proposed items will be funded when staff presents their “recommended budget adjustments.”

Even though the school system is getting more money, the district has to cover things such as growth, inflation and matching their share of state increases in teacher pay. This means that in addition to not funding some new items, some existing services could be cut.

The school board went the cut route last year after getting $23.9 million of a requested $35.7 million increase from commissioners. The debate about reducing school cleanings to every other weekday in elementary schools and twice a week in middle and high schools got heated.

There was still some lingering bad blood about what happened. Principals had urged the school board to reverse the cleaning cuts and, if more cuts are needed in the future, to change the temperature settings first at Central Office.

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