Get ready for what looks to be a rocky budget season between the Wake County Board of Commissioners and the Wake County school board.
As noted in today's article by Thomas Goldsmith, the commissioners will vote today on appointing Republicans Joe Bryan, Paul Coble and Tony Gurley to the budget, finance and education committee. Click here to view the committee assignments. The document mistakenly says 2011 and not 2012.
Bryan, nominated to chair the committee, says the GOP majority on the board of commissioners will likely stick with its pay-as-you-go philosophy of maintaining services based on the lowered revenue streams of recession years. The county is projecting slow revenue growth for the upcoming fiscal year.
“We’ll have our commissioners retreat on Jan. 27 where we’ll set forth our goals for the year,” Bryan said. “Once again, I do see the budget being a major challenge for us. The economy has not come roaring back.”
That's not a good sign for the new Democratic majority on the school board looking for a funding increase.
Democratic school board vice chairman Keith Sutton said it’s past time to increase the county’s contribution to the school system, which has been roughly $314 million for each of the past three years despite increased enrollment.
“You can’t expect to provide the same quality of services of education while continuing to do more with the same,” Sutton said. “I don’t even see it as an argument. I just think it’s clear. The numbers are there and they speak for themselves. It’s a matter of finding the political will.”
Bryan concedes that the schools have growing needs, but notes that’s also true for such Wake departments as the sheriff’s operation, emergency medical services and human services.
Bryan alluded to how voters in Durham and Orange counties voted in November to approve sales tax increases for schools.
“I’m confident that the commissioners would be ecstatic about the school board leading their own campaign about a sales tax increase,” Bryan said sarcastically.
Sutton countered that the need for more funding should be a community priority, not the subject of a struggle between the two governing bodies. The board of commissioners typically has the last say on spending, unless the school board uses the rare option of appealing to the court system.
“At some point we’ve got to be responsible leaders and make sure that our spending keeps pace with the growth,” Sutton said. “At some point we’ve got to move forward. I’m hopeful that we’ll have support from all of our colleagues on that, not just the Democrats.”
On the issue of the school system's excess fund balance, Bryan said he doesn't expect commissioners to ask to give the money back. But there's nothing that would prevent commissioners from holding it against the school board when it makes is budget request in the spring.