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Wake County school board narrowly passes budget request

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The Wake County school board came very close on Tuesday to not having adopted a budget request for the 2012-13 school year.

As noted in today's article, the 6-3 vote in favor the budget proposal was very much in doubt until the roll call vote. Every vote was needed because it took a two-thirds majority to waive a policy that limits Wake from using more than half its fund balance to balance the budget.

Signs of the budget being in trouble came early in the discussion when Democratic board members Kevin Hill and Jim Martin said they couldn't vote yes. They didn't feel that the requested $8.8 million increase from the Wake County Commissioners was enough in light of cuts in recent years.

Hill, the board chairman, pointed to how the budget doesn't restore cuts made last year to custodial service and also includes a $13.96 per student cut in school supplies.

“We can make our school system backslide into a second-class status or we can find the political will to find the resources necessary to repair the damage that has been inflicted in the past five years," Hill said.

Hill said he was concerned that the school system wasn't getting the money it needed because it's being held hostage to this year's political elections. Two of the four Republicans that make up the majority on the commissioners are running for higher office this year.

Martin added that he was concerned the budget was crafted with the thinking that it was much as they could get past the commissioners in this election year.

But fellow Democratic school board member Susan Evans said she felt an $8.8 million increase was realistic in light of the current state of the economy. She said they can't ask the commissioners to give more of what they don't have.

"It's an appropriate budget for this time," Evans said.

Republican board member Chris Malone and Democratic board member Christine Kushner said they could support the budget too.

GOP board member Debra Goldman asked what would happen if they didn't approve the budget Tuesday.
Chief Business Officer David Neter said they're legally required to get a budget request to the county by May 15.

School board vice chairman Keith Sutton, who had taken the gavel so Hill could become an advocate during the discussion, said a special board meeting would be called before May 15 to get a budget passed if needed.

Goldman questioned how they could do that when they haven't back from the commissioners since their March 29 joint meeting if they're amendable to giving the $8.8 million.

"Passing a budget with the magnitude of this one, I’d sure hope it would pass by more than a 5-4 vote," Goldman said.

GOP board member John Tedesco said that, given that staff projects they can replenish the fund balance by another $18 million next year, why they don't just take even more out of the fund balance now. He said they might want to dip into the fund balance to restore the maintenance cuts and/or reduce the requested funding increase by $2 million.

The use of the $28.9 million would leave Wake with about $5 million left in the rainy-day fund.

Neter reminded the board that they not expecting to fully replenish the $28.9 million. He said this means they'll already start the 2013-14 budget in a fiscal hole.

GOP school board Deborah Prickett pointed to the need to have a good working relationship with commissioners, some of whom like Tony Gurley have questioned whether the school district should have a fund balance.

“The relationship is just where it doesn’t need to be regarding fund balance," Prickett said.

Prickett brought up the heated discussion that Gurley and Martin had after the joint meeting.

“It’s kind of a shame that it went in this direction,” Prickett said of the argument.

"We have to work together," Prickett added. "They provide a lot of our funding. They’re very important for the operation of our schools."

The momentum of the conversation shifted when Neter said they can look at ways to reduce the cut in school instructional supplies and to potentially increase maintenance spending. With those assurances, Martin and Hill said they could now vote for the budget.

But passage wasn't secured until Malone voted yes with the five Democrats.

After the vote, Malone pointed to the need to adopt the budget by May 15 to comply with state law. He also said it was a "pragmatic" budget that recognized they had to make hard decisions to meet the school system's needs.

“It was the right thing to do. I wanted to vote with my fellow conservatives, but they’re wrong,” Malone said.

Also after the vote, Goldman argued that the board hadn't spent enough time discussing the budget to call for a vote.

"When you're about to vote on a billion-dollar budget, you better have all your questions answered," Goldman said.


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More money won't solve our

More money won't solve our problems.  We need a thorough breakdown of what is spent in each department of the WCPSS from Central Office departments to school by school ..Not an overview of what the budget provides..I mean a complete breakdown.

Throwing money at something without getting rid of the waste will help increase the waste and not improve efficiency nor my child's educational experience.


(1) An independent audit of the Central Office thought it was running too lean -- that's not wasteful.

(2) Every organization has some degree of waste in it.  That's true of the private sector as well as the public sector.  The real question is this: does the cost of rooting out the waste exceed the amount of waste being rooted out?  If not, then focusing on waste is just a distraction.  Further, I have yet to find anybody who can put together a convincing case that there is any substantial waste currently in the school system -- at most, people wave their arms and make broad accusations, but they can't really drill down and say "Here's $X that isn't required to be spent by applicable law, that really isn't buying anything," where X is some non-negligible amount.

"Here's $X that isn't

"Here's $X that isn't required to be spent by applicable law, that really isn't buying anything," where X is some non-negligible amount." 

I guess the issue I have is that just because the money buys something, it does not mean it is bought or arranged in the most cost efficient way so that taxpayers and the students of the WCPSS are getting the most bang for their buck.

Read more here: http://blogs.newsobserver.com/comment/reply/48221/260391#storylink=cpy


I didn't mean that quite so literally.  I just mean "it's money that's being thrown down the tubes."


You are right that WCPSS and all government agencies waste a lot of money buying things, and that is because state and federal laws are written in such a way that they have no choice but to waste money. For instance, WCPSS must use state-approved vendors who have set prices for items with the State. Often these prices are inflated because when the companies bid on the contracts, they padded their prices to increase profits and recover money they will spend complying with state regulations. So much of the "waste" that people see in government is well beyond the control of the people having to spend the money. It's very frustrating. 

I agree.  I used to work

I agree.  I used to work for a State University in IL and we had to go with the lowest bidder for construction projects even when we knew the company did lousy work & we'd end up having to pay more in the end.  Very frustrating. 

Martin and Hill continue to prove

that they are clueless.

The previous board...

started the policy of bending over backwards for the county commissioners (which was politically motivated). And I guess it continues.


Asking for $8.8M is bending over backwards?  Thankfully, the primary election will be over before Gurley and Coble have to vote on this. Maybe they'll stop trying to appease some bizarre charicature of what they believe their base to be.

It is frustrating that we

It is frustrating that we always have staggered election cycles and someone is always running for election (CC's/BOE members, etc.) and few want to say that they will raise taxes or increase funds to schools if they think it will cost them votes.  There is nothing wrong with asking the CC's to cough up the money now (they are still sitting in office) and most voters realize the situation they are in.  I think it would do the commissioners some good to know where the public stands on this issue.  (I hope many of the posters here will send an email to the CC's and chime in on whether or not they think TATA should get more money.)  Even though people think republicans are fiscal conservatives that doesn't mean they should never spend a dime on anything or raise taxes when necessary.  I wish the 2009 BOE had sought more funding during at least one of their first two years.  We have had three years now of flat funding while student numbers have increased and I don't think any of us would call it wreckless spending to fund the students we currently have enrolled.

I meant....

the previous board did not ask for an increase last year - due to purely political motivations.

With this budget, they are giving a 1% raise / $500 bonus to teachers/other employees? Does that even cover inflation? That is just pathetic and reflects the spineless-ness of the current and previous boards.

Is the 1% just on supplemental pay?

I heard that the 1% raise was calculated based on supplemental pay only. So it is not 1% on total pay and may be as little as $5-10 per month or a whopping $60-120/year.

Much less than the one time $500 bonus.

Can Goldsmith or Hui check on this important point and give some additional numbers,estimates, information?

It is a one-percent increase

It is a one-percent increase in the supplement. But the impact is bigger than how you described. Click here and go to the last few pages this handout. For a beginning teacher, it would mean a $304 increase.

Thanks for checking...

Seems the 1% is the increase in the supplemental pay percentage, so it equates to a 1% increase in salary overall.

So, if you got a $30,000 base pay with a 5% supplement ($1500), you will now get a $30,000 base pay with a 6% supplement ($1800), for a 1% overall increase.

Makes sense now.

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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.