Yesterday, the WakeEd Partnership Board of Directors approved a resolution calling on the Wake County Board of Commissioners to approve a minimum $48 million increase to the Wake County Public School System’s local appropriation.
The school system has requested $58.9 million in additional funds for next year, with about $11 million of that going towards new or expanding programs such as hiring more counselors, social workers, and psychologists, and to support programming for academically and intellectually gifted students above the state allotments.
WakeEd supports the full request by the schools, but the Board focused on the $48 million minimum increase in its resolution because the proposed budget for Wake County staff has a $30 million increase proposed for school spending.
School system staff or school board members haven’t made any public statements about the impacts anything less than $48 million in additional funding will mean for school system services, but it is reasonable to assume that the school system would have to adjust its budget on a spectrum of mild to drastic. Mild could include hiring freezes or delaying maintenance, and drastic could include reducing positions and displacing staff.
The key drivers of the requested increase are growth, to open four new schools; legislative impact, state-mandated class size reduction; and special education, to continue services previously funded by a federal grant.
WakeEd’s Board Resolution, which can be read here, was delivered to the commissioners yesterday by email and hand delivered to county staff yesterday by WakeEd Vice President of Policy and Research Tim Lavallee at the commissioners’ public hearing on the budget.
During the hearing, Lavallee advised commissioners that WakeEd’s Board and business partners have grave concerns about the proposed $30 million increase being too low. He said that employers who are looking to locate here are watching to see how public boards tackle the community’s most difficult issues. He praised the commissioners for their previous support of public education and for additional spending on wrap-around services such as school-based food pantries, universal school breakfast, hiring more school nurses, improving transit, and increasing access to affordable housing.
Lavallee added that in addition to leading the way in these areas, employers are also watching public school funding. They know that funding changes by the state and federal governments have put significant pressure on local resources to continue to produce a high quality public education system. Employers also know the positive impact WCPSS has on the local economy.
That is why WakeEd is recommending the county commissioners approve a minimum increase of $48 million for next year, with $30 million from the proposed 2.9 cent tax increase, and $18 million from the county’s General Fund Balance.