RALEIGH: Wake Co. commissioners approve $1.066B budget - CBS 3 Springfield - WSHM

Increased teacher supplements included in $1.066B Wake Co. budget

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Teachers in North Carolina are some of the lowest paid in the country, ranking 46th above only Mississippi and West Virginia among 12 Southeastern states. Teachers in North Carolina are some of the lowest paid in the country, ranking 46th above only Mississippi and West Virginia among 12 Southeastern states.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

The Wake County Board of Commissioners approved a $1.066 billion budget Monday that includes an extra $3.75 million to increase supplements to teacher salaries.

Commissioners voted 6-1 in favor of the budget, with the only dissenting vote coming from Betty Lou Ward, who said the budget did not do enough for teachers.

The adopted budget reflects an increase of $3,887,000 from the recommended budget, and includes increased spending for education compared to the recommended budget.

The budget represents a 4.3 percent increase in spending on education compared to FY 2014, however it does not include a 3.5 percent increase for all Wake County Public School System employees as proposed by Wake Schools Superintendent Jim Merrill.

The budget increases the direct allocation to the WCPSS by $13.9 million, to a total of $341,426,400, which makes up 51 percent of the county's general fund budget.

In April, the Wake County school board approved a $1.37 billion budget that included a $39 million contribution from the county -- $29 million of which was earmarked for employee raises. However county commissioners said they cannot fund those raises; rather the county will wait for action from the General Assembly to see what lawmakers will offer in terms of teacher raises.

The state of North Carolina is looking to push up teacher pay, which has lagged in recent years. But individual school systems can decide to pay teacher more than the state salaries.

The House of Representatives and the Senate have passed individual budgets that include raises for teachers, but have not agreed on a final spending plan. The Senate is proposing about an 11 percent increase for teachers in exchange for them relinquishing their tenure or "career status;" while the House is proposing about a 5 percent increase funded by increased investment in and ultimately sales from the lottery.

While the Wake County budget doesn't boost teacher pay, commissioners did approve $3.75 million to increase supplements to teacher salaries to the tune of about $225 per year. Total salary supplements are currently an average $6,204 per teacher.

"[We] will take the funding obviously and do the best we can," said Wake county school board chairwoman Christine Kushner. "We'll be meeting tomorrow to discuss an interim budget and we'll be finalizing things once we know what the outcome of the state budget will mean."

The budget also includes a Fund Balance Exchange Incentive that gives the WCPSS an opportunity to increase its county funding.

"The Fund Balance Exchange Incentive invites schools to return some of their unused fund balance to the County this year in exchange for an increased, recurring funding of roughly 20 percent of the amount returned," Wake County Manager Jim Hartmann said.

During Monday's vote, Commissioner Carolina Sullivan proposed the board study the possibility of including a 25-cent tax on the November ballot to help raise money for teacher raises.

The adopted budget further includes a property tax increase of 4.4 cents, for a final property tax rate of 57.8 cents per $100 property valuation.

The tax increase was approved by the public in October 2013 and is dedicated to the $983.8 million WCPSS 2013 building program.

The approved budget also increases spending for the Board of Commissioners' focus areas of public safety and community health and vitality:

Public Safety

  • Expanded ambulance service and staff for Emergency Medical Services to keep pace with population growth
  • New blood/alcohol analysis equipment and chemists for the City-County Bureau of Identification to accommodate increased driving while impaired cases
  • Courthouse security and critical technology infrastructure for the Sheriff's Office

Community Health and Vitality

  • Two staff to ensure that restaurants, hotels, childcare facilities and nursing homes meet sanitation guidelines
  • Six additional staff for child protective services and adult guardianship cases
  • Ten school health nurses to provide health services in under-served areas
  • Seven staff to support increased development in the County
  • Continue enhanced staffing level, both permanent and temporary, to meet Food and Nutrition and Medicaid eligibility goals

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