Wake Schools prepares to make do with the budget it has

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School board members weren't happy about their funding in the Wake County budget.

Dealing with millions of dollars in a budget shortfall, Wake County school leaders say they will have to make the best of it.

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On Monday, the Wake County School Board learned the Wake County Board of Commissioners granted less than half of the budget boost it asked for in next year's operating budget.

The school board asked the county for almost $45 million more than it received last year. In a 5-2 vote, county commissioners instead gave $21 million.

"We are not creating a budget out of thin air," said Monika Johnson-Hostler, Chair of the Wake County School Board, "they are based on the priorities students need."

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WCPSS reacts in the wake of the county's budget decisions.

This isn't new to the school board. It dealt getting with a $17.5 million shortfall for the 2016-2017 school year. That deficit forced the school board to adjust the temperature in classrooms, cut cleaning services and instructional supplies and activate a three-month hiring freeze at the central office.

As far as what will happen this time around, no one knows.

"Today we don't have a plan other than to remind us as a community that yes, Wake County Public School System always gets it done," said Johnson-Hostler.

Wake Ed Partnership, a local education advocacy group, is working alongside both the Wake county Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education. Tim Lavallee with Wake Ed Partnership said the two sides have a decision to make as they evaluate the board's top priorities.

"They can't not open new schools, they can't not enroll new students, they can't respond to the increases in salary from the state with the local supplement," said Lavallee. "It puts things on hold for a while for sure. I believe that they would continue on with the programs that they have but to expand and get the deep reach they want, I don't know that they'd be able to do that."

Earlier in the budgeting process, Wake County leaders were hoping to allocate part of the budget to beefing up things such as the number of school counselors and its racial equity team.

How things like that will play out now, is up in the air.

"I think everything is on the table," said Johnson-Hostler. "We need all hands on deck to be thinking and be thoughtful on what this means."

The board adopted an interim budget resolution just to keep the district running when the new fiscal year starts on July 1.

It won't vote on an official budget until later this summer after the state passes its budget.

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