Wake County schools look to fill gap left by budget shortfall

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Wake County schools have to deal with a nearly $12 million funding gap after their request in the budget was denied (WTVD)

Wake County Schools will have to find a way to fund a nearly $12 million budget gap after county commissioners unanimously denied the school system's full funding request Monday.

School district officials had lobbied for a $35.7 million increase from last year. They only got $23.9 million more. Commissioners point out that the district got 97 percent of what it asked for, but that still leaves an $11.8 million shortfall.

Read more: Wake County taxes on the rise; school funding lower than asked.

School board members passed an interim budget Tuesday evening to keep the school system in operation until legislators pass a state budget.

While school officials have not decided how to fill the gap, teachers could feel the impact.

Wake County Schools has a goal to raise teacher salaries to the national average by 2020, but without all the money they requested the district could have to slow down that plan.

"When more than 80 percent of your budget goes to salaries and you've got to make up this kind of differential, that's the only place where you can get the magnitude of cost differential that we're talking about," said WCPSS board member Dr. Jim Martin.

School officials have also floated the idea of raising fees on sports and extra-curricular activities to help make up the difference but many parents are not happy with the suggestion.

Martin said he won't support it.

"If you have fees for extra activities that creates "have" and "have-not" as to who can participate," he said.

Wake County Schools received a $24 million increase from the county this year, but the district says it is not enough to accommodate growth, keep some existing programs, and get new ones started.

"All of our commissioners are fully aware that although they have been generous over the last two years, we're trying to make up eight years of flat-lined funding for the school system. So again, there will be some tough decisions," said WCPSS board chair Tom Benton.

WCPSS' superintendent is reaching out to principals to get their input.

Board members will likely vote in August on a plan to close the budget gap.
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