Wake Schools makes cuts to decrease budget

RALEIGH "This budget has had to be very lean -- very conservative," said Patti Head, board member.

Tough times call for tough recessions, potentially tossing hundreds of Wake County teachers from the system. The county won't automatically renew about 1,500 employee contracts that expire at the end of June. About half of those positions are teaching jobs.

"This is a proactive approach," Head said. "We aren't having to reorganize classes and take teachers out of the classrooms."

Only time will tell how many jobs are saved, but there will be other losses.

Class sizes will get bigger, there will probably be fewer art, music, P.E. ad foreign language classes. Two high profile programs may also get cut. Ten coordinator positions for the Communities in Schools tutoring program will not be funded, and a program that allows students who have been given long term suspensions to attend an alternative school will be cut.

Those students would have to continue their education online.

"I'm optimistic the funding will be there," Head said. "The problem is it's difficult to commit to it."

Wake is asking county commissioners for the same amount of money it requested last year, $317 million.

Most of the school system's $1.2 billion operating budget comes from the state, which is facing a huge shortfall, so the state could pass big cuts down to Wake County.

"We are relying on the state and on the federal stimulus package and on how many dollars the county gives us," Head explained. "It's a tight year."

In preparation, Wake is tightening up its budget revision, saving about $25 million. The system will reduce school bus purchases from 17 to 13, hold off on early hires for schools that are not built, which will save about $124,000, and cut $3,000 by not giving board members raises.

Superintendent Del Burns will not get his 3 percent pay increase this year, which will save the system another $8,000.

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