Wake schools facing budget concerns

WAKE COUNTY Board members talked about fiscal matters Tuesday night inside a budget work session that will be the top story in coming weeks.

"I think we'll certainly take steps to make sure that we don't see any tax increases," Wake School Board Chair Ron Margiotta said.

During Tuesday's meeting, Margiotta and others discussed reductions and layoffs to close next year's $21 million shortfall.

"You know we have a big budget," Margiotta said. "We have an awful lot of flexibility within that budget to make adjustments."

So far the cuts come from central services, which will be about 70 jobs, but 40 others are already vacant - ranging from maintenance procurement specialists, secretaries and systems analysts to an assistant superintendent in growth and planning. But the measures close less than half the gap.

"It is our goal to preserve teaching positions as much as we can," Wake School Board member Keith Sutton said.

But it is good news considering Durham County school employees are faced with a similar shortfall and fear job losses.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg's cash strapped board is laying off 600 teachers next year and cutting pay for all of its assistant principals. All of the shortfalls stem from a lack in state funds.

"The state is already prepared for perhaps another round of cuts and another lean year, another lean year," Sutton said.

Some board members like John Tedesco fear as much as an $80 million shortfall could plague the system two years from now when federal stimulus money runs dry - possibly hitting the classroom.

Other board members say the budget they're currently working on is so complex, it's impossible to see two years from now.

The next budget hearing is Wednesday. The final budget is due May 1.

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