Politics & Government

TriPol: Wake boards to seek return to state school funding practice

The Wake County Board of Commissioners may join the school board in urging the General Assembly to restore the old practice of automatically funding student enrollment growth in state budgets.

Last year, state lawmakers voted to end the practice – dating to 1933 – of building student enrollment estimates into the foundation of state education budgets. Now school districts won’t know whether enrollment growth will be fully funded until after the state budget is finalized.

Growing school districts such as Wake County, which has typically added 3,000 new students a year, worry that they won’t get funding for all their new students. In its legislative agenda adopted earlier this month, the Wake school board called for the state to go back to the old way of funding growth.

A similar request is among the items on the commissioners’ draft 2015 legislative agenda. Commissioners Chairman James West said the student growth funding item will likely be in the final version of the legislative agenda that will be voted on in February.

“We want to make sure our schools are adequately funded,” West said.

Business tax loss felt

Leaders in Durham and other cities also hope to undo a change legislators made last year, when they eliminated the privilege taxes cities had charged businesses to operate.

Durham stands to lose $2.9 million in annual revenue, city officials told Durham legislators Friday. Property owners in Durham could be facing a tax hike next year to make up the difference.

“Durham used the $2.9 million to fund our basic governmental operations, public-safety operations, et cetera,” City Manager Tom Bonfield said.

Durham leaders and their counterparts across the state are hoping their legislators can push a reinstated business tax through.

Its loss, Bonfield said, “really kind of squeezes us, to the point that raising property taxes is one of the few local options we would have.”

Town seeks help for inn

Hillsborough’s town board hired UNC School of Government Development Financial Initiative experts this week to help save and restore the historic Colonial Inn.

The inn at 153 W. King St. has languished since owner Francis Henry bought it in 2001. Saving it is a daunting prospect, Mayor Tom Stevens said, and likely will require a partnership. The Development Financial Initiative, established in 2011, helps North Carolina communities attract private investment and meet economic development goals.

The first step is deciding what the 176-year-old Colonial Inn should become, said Christy Raulli, a UNC School of Government analyst. That will inform the market and financial analysis, she said, and let the town start to assemble potential public and private financing.

The work will cost the town $8,500 and take about eight weeks.

The town has tried to stay out of the inn’s affairs, Commissioner Eric Hallman said, but the Development Finance Initiative is a trustworthy third party that can identify problems and solutions.

“We have an opportunity now to look at what the options are before us, and to find those and make a decision, instead of letting this hang out there forever,” Hallman said.

Kirkpatrick to retire

Jayne Kirkpatrick is retiring after nearly 25 years as the city of Raleigh’s public affairs director. Feb. 1 will be her last day answering reporters’ questions, writing press releases and overseeing the city’s own television station.

“I have no idea what to do with myself,” Kirkpatrick reflected in an email. But she knows she wants to read, write, volunteer and spend lots of time with her husband.

Kirkpatrick previously was director of communications for the American Public Transportation Association. The city has not named her successor.

Political events

• State Rep. Duane Hall will speak to the Wake Senior Democrats on Wednesday at the Marriott Crabtree Valley hotel at 4500 Marriott Drive in Raleigh. The meeting starts at 11 a.m. with lunch followed by the program at 11:30 a.m.

Compiled by T. Keung Hui, Tammy Grubb and Andrew Kenney.

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