Wake County School Board passes final budget

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Cuts and adjustments had to be made to account for a spending gap.

The Wake County School Board passed a $1.5 billion budget early Tuesday evening, putting the final stamp on how to spend our tax dollars on our children's education.

The $1.5 billion budget includes opening five new schools and providing staff pay raises. Teachers and certified staff will receive pay raises as state lawmakers provided in the state budget.

With school starting in less than two weeks, the board met Tuesday evening to figure out how to close a $17.5 million spending gap.

"It became extremely difficult," said Tom Benton, Chairman of the Wake County School Board.

Some of the cuts in the budget included:

- Freezing central office vacancies for 90 days

- Postponing the hiring and implementation of new Instructional Technology Facilitators

- A reduction of central services contracts

- Reducing the transportation budget to absorb state budget reductions for transportation

- Adjusting elementary and middle school teacher funding allotments

- Adjusting temperature settings to reduce heating and cooling cost

Other cost-cutting decisions include a small decrease in instructional supply allotments and postponing the expansion of middle school visual and performing arts offerings.

Contributing to the budget shortfall is the large bump in teacher salaries from the state budget and the school system is getting nearly $12 million less from the Wake County Board of Commissioners.

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In response to feedback from the community, the board voted to lessen the cuts to custodial services. The board opted to adjust sweeping and vacuuming in elementary schools to every-other-day, which amounts to five days every two weeks.

In middle schools and high schools, sweeping and vacuuming will be reduced to twice a week.

"Bathrooms are cleaned every day, sometimes multiple times, there's always custodial staff to clean up accidents or spills," Benton said. "You're going to be in safe, orderly and clean facilities every day."

The board will also use additional resources from the general fund balance as well as estimated savings from changes to transportation routing to help fill the funding gap.

The deficit of more than $17.5 million came from the funding gap between the Proposed 2016-17 Operating Budget and the final Wake County and State of North Carolina budgets.

Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Doug Thilman said earlier they try to protect the classroom as much as possible when making cuts.

"We know there have to be cuts," he said. "That's just part of business. It's part of working in the state of North Carolina and the challenges that we do face. However, Dr. Merrill and the board work incredibly hard to make sure that it doesn't touch the students."

The meeting started at 5:30 p.m. at the Wake County School Board headquarters on Dillard Drive in Cary.

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