What to cut? Wake County School Board works on budget

WAKE COUNTY, North Carolina (WTVD) -- The Wake County Public School System's Board of Education went home with homework after its Tuesday night meeting.

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District staff laid out three pages of programs and dollar amounts during its work session to spell out options the board has when it comes to making cuts to balance the budget.

RELATED: Read the Wake County Schools budget update (.pdf)

The district has been operating under an interim budget. Its proposed budget is $1.6 billion, much of which comes from county and state funding.

RELATED: Wake County Schools figuring out $29 million budget shortfall

The school district asked for a $45 million boost in county funding but ended up $24 million short. It also fell $4.6 million short from the state.

The district's finance team was able to shrink the budget gap to $13.9 million after shifting some money. That includes $3 million in transportation funding, because of positions they said they're having trouble filling.

One of the costliest items on the list of programs presented to the board was $9.9 million to hire more school counselors. As it stands, it doesn't look like that will be fully funded.

In January, the need for more school counselors came to light after a cell phone recording went viral. The video out of Rolesville High School showed a school resource officer body-slamming a student while breaking up a fight. The school resource officer later resigned.

Still, the board's chair is hoping they can come up with something.

"If we do a phase-in for counselors, what does that look like?" said Chairwoman Monika Johnson-Hostler. "I'm hoping myself and board members put as many options on the table (as possible)."

Another big chunk of the budget is funding pay for extra-duty positions, such as athletic coaches. Right now, they've set aside $2.5 million for that. As far as the future of that particular line item, Johnson-Hostler said everything is on the table.

While board members plan to take the list home with them to decide what they can't live without, they also plan to reach out to the Wake County Board of Commissioners.

"I do support the idea of going back to our county leaders and saying we're having some tough choices and we appreciate a conversation," said board member Christine Kushner.

While they work to schedule that meeting, board members will reach out to district staff about programs they can't do without. Staff will then compile that list and bring it back to the board.

The board does have time. In past years we've seen budget resolutions passed in October.
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