Wake County Public Schools budget calls for more school support staff

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Of the $58.9 million additional funds the Wake County Public School System is asking for in their upcoming budget, about $48 million will go toward maintaining current standards. The other approximately $11 million is targeted toward additional services, with $5 million earmarked for new school guidance counselors, school social workers and school psychologists.

"When I have to leave one school to go to another school, I feel like that I'm leaving a family hanging," said Sara Davis, a Wake County Public Schools social worker.

Davis covers two schools, something that's common for many in her role.

That split has led the district to fall far behind recommended counselor to student ratios.

The suggested ratio is 250 students for one counselor. In Wake County, it's 447 students for every counselor.

While Helen Everitt, a sixth-grade counselor, works only with Davis Drive Middle School in Cary, she notes rising enrollment has led to more work.

She explained that hiring more support staff, and thus bringing the ratio down, would lead to more impactful relationships.

"It allows us to get to know the students on a more deeper, personal level, and really help to see what their conflicts are. Whatever the situation is, whatever their concern is from their perspective and help lead them in the right direction," says Everitt.

How - and if - that funding comes remains to be seen.

The proposed budget will now go to the School Board to review.

The Board will then hold a public hearing before making a final decision.

By May 15, the board-approved budget must be delivered to the County Commissioners.

"We always have more requests than money," explained District 4 Commissioner Erv Portman.

Portman said the county usually has $30 million more in revenue each year due to new businesses, homes, and population increases.

Of those additional funds, about $10 million goes toward debt services. The remaining $20 million goes toward a variety of projects, such as schools and green spaces.

If needs still exist after that money is spent, the county needs another way to fund approved proposals.

"We've actually raised taxes four times in the last four years and that's never happened before," said Portman, who serves as co-education chair.

With that in mind, County Commissioners are working closely with the School Board to come up with a plan to prevent the cycle from continuing.

Commissioner Portman stressed it is the district's responsibility to prioritize what needs funding the most.

To view the district's full proposal, click here.

To view the district's request for more support staff, click here.
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