Wake school board approves budget

WAKE COUNTY It does not include cuts Governor Bev Perdue proposed earlier in the day.

The governor's budget proposal for next year essentially more than doubles the amount of money the Wake County school board will need to cut from its budget. And they say there's no way to avoid the classroom.

"We all certainly understand that the budget cuts are dire and imminent," President of the Project Enlightenment Foundation Peggy Hibbert said.

The dire cuts being finalized Wednesday is $20 million to central services.

Wake County schools will be letting about 70 people go, eliminating dozens of open positions, and will keep a hiring freeze in place. They will also have fewer supplies and fewer staff while welcoming thousands of new students and opening four new schools.

"I was personally not pleased with where we made the cuts," Wake County School Board Member Keith Sutton said. "I thought we could have made some more cuts on some of our upper administration roles and some less cuts in terms of our schools and programs."

The governor's proposal means they'll have to cut another $27 million, which will hit the classroom.

"We just got the governor's budget today and she's trying to do what she can to preserve the classroom," Sutton said. "At the same time, revenues are tight so we're forced to make some tough decisions."

At least one school board member is blaming the state for mis-spending money that he says should've helped schools.

"We heard today about $700 million owed to the schools that they don't have because they've used it to balance the budget," Wake County School Board Member Chris Malone said. "They don't have the money. The money's going somewhere else we don't know where it was, where it's going but we need to see it here."

The school board is having to consider cutting even more supplies and some media specialists. They will also think about cutting the pay of athletic coaches to band directors and mentor coordinators.

"It's going to be hard and we know we're facing serious cuts right now and it's nothing that we can control," Wake County School Board Member John Tedesco said. "We don't do our own funding."

The tough part is the cuts may run even deeper once the governor's proposal lands in the hands of lawmakers.

"The biggest part is the unknown," School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta said. "The state doesn't know what it's going to do based on revenues they are unsure of."

The school board gives their budget to commissioners Wednesday. They could also ask for more cuts.

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