Wake Schools struggles with budget questions

March 19, 2012 9:00:00 PM PDT
Wake County school leaders are trying to solve a math problem that could result in either massive job cuts or the near depletion of its rainy day fund.

"We are in survival mode at this point. We're making what we think is a good recommendation," said Chief Business Officer David Neter. "It's not ideal, but we're not in ideal times."

The recommendation is to spend about $29 million of the school system's nearly $34 million rainy day fund. That move should keep all teachers and assistants in the classroom and give educators in Wake County a one percent raise, which is something they haven't seen in four years.

School board member Jim Martin said he's concerned about where money will come from in the future to continue to keep those positions.

"We may cover it for a year, but year-by-year funding is not the way to have a strong school system," said Martin.

To keep cuts out of the classroom, schools may get a bit dirtier. Sweeping and vacuuming twice a week could save $3 million a year.

School board members are asking questions and raising concerns about decisions made in what the superintendent calls a very lean budget. It's $24 million less this year.

There's also still some uncertainty the school system will get all the money needed to pass the budget.

"We don't know how the county commissioners are going to vote," said Martin. "We don't know what's going to come through the legislature. And these are issues we worry about everywhere from pre-K to the university level."

The public can weigh in on the budget online right now. There will also be a public hearing next month before the board's final vote in May.

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