Wake Ed

Wake County commissioner explains not backing school budget

Wake County Commissioner John Burns has given a detailed explanation on why he’s not backing funding all, or nearly all, of the school board’s proposed $48.3 million increase in local funding.

In a lengthy Facebook post Tuesday, Burns writes that providing around $6 million more than the $34.6 million increase recommended by County Manager Jim Hartmann would be a “responsible place.” But Burns says fully or substantially closing the $13.7 million gap between Hartmann’s recommendation and the school board’s request would reduce budget flexibility for things such as getting voter support for passing a transit referendum in 2016.

“Education has been underfunded, and we must work to overcome the hole my predecessors and their ideological soulmates in the General Assembly placed us in,” Burns writes. “But I don't think it would be responsible to try to do it all in one year and then pretend we can ignore the additional $100MM in unmet requests on page 14 of the School's proposed budget over the next several years.”

Any approved budget must come with an understanding with the School Board that we will sit down and develop a multi-year budget plan that gives predictability and stability both to the schools and the County taxpayer.”

Burns also isn’t backing a proposal floated by WakeUP Wake County to raise property taxes a cent higher than proposed. Hartmann is proposing a 2.9-cent tax rate increase. A 3.9-cent increase would fund nearly all of the school board’s $48.3 million increase.

WakeUP Wake says the additional penny on the tax rate would be $27 more per year on a average homeowner, raising the potential tax increase to $104.

“Were there no people struggling to make a living such that $104 is a significant unplanned expense, I would be happy to ask people like me to pay even more for schools that help get everyone else to the economic status I have been lucky enough to attain,” Burns writes. “But we don't live in that world.”

Commissioners will vote on the county budget on Monday. But even without Burns’ support, his fellow Democrats might back raising taxes 3.9 cents.