Wake Ed

Wake County Commissioners to review budget plan Monday

Wake County school board members should get a good indication Monday of whether they’ll get more than the $34.6 million increase in local funding proposed by County Manager Jim Hartmann.

The Wake County Board of Commissioners will begin a work session at 9 a.m. to review and discuss potential changes to Hartmann’s proposed $1.1 billion operating budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year. If commissioners are inclined to move closer toward the school board’s request for a $48.3 million increase – $13.7 million more than Hartmann’s proposal – it should become clear during the work session.

But as commissioners review the school board’s request, they’ll also weigh competing needs for more funding, such as in human services. They’ll also weigh the arguments made by groups like WakeUP Wake County that the county’s property tax rate is low enough that adding on to Hartmann’s proposed 2.9-cent tax increase isn’t a problem.

If the 2.9-cent property tax rate increase is approved, it would equal about $77 more a year in taxes on the average Wake County home assessed at $265,000.

The $13.7 million gap between Hartmann’s recommendation and the school board’s request equals roughly one penny on the tax rate. WakeUP Wake says funding that additional $13.7 million would only require $27 more a year in property taxes on the average homeowner.

So fully funding the school board’s $48.3 million increase could result in a tax-rate increase of 3.9 cents, or about $104 more per year in taxes on the average Wake homeowner.

WakeUP Wake points to how Wake County’s tax rate is lower than surrounding counties. But critics note how the county tax rate is poised to go up for the second year in a row.

Last year, the tax rate was raised 4.4 cents to 57.8 cents per $100 of assessed value to help repay the $810 million school construction bond issue approved by voters in October 2013.

Between the 4.4-cent increase last year and Hartmann’s proposed 2,9-cent increase this year, the average Wake homeowner faces paying $193 more in property taxes than they did two years ago. Adding in the additional penny to fully fund the school request could bring the amount to $210 more than what was paid in taxes two years ago.

But considering how the all-Democratic board of commissioners campaigned on increasing school funding, they may feel that increasing taxes to provide the full school board request is worth the investment. After all, school administrators and school board members have warned they face cutting back on proposed pay raises for teachers, support staff and coaches if they don’t get the full $48.3 million local increase.