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Wake County School Board asking Commissioners for $39 million in proposed budget

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TWC News: Wake County School Board asking Commissioners for $39 million in proposed budget
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WAKE COUNTY, N.C. - It looks like Wake County Commissioners and the Wake County School Board are heading towards another show-down.

The Wake County School Board is expected Tuesday night to approve its nearly $2 billion budget for next fiscal year.

As part of that budget, the school board is asking county commissioners for $39 million more than last year, to give all school employees a raise.

“I'm going to go forward expecting us to get the support I think our teachers and staff members deserve,” said School Board Chair Christine Kushner.

The Wake School Board hopes to give all WCPSS employees, including teachers, a 3.5 percent raise in next year's budget.

But to do that, the school board will ask county commissioners for $39 million more than last year; $29 million of that is to cover the cost of the proposed pay raises.

“We are behind where we were in per pupil spending four or five years ago,” Kushner said. “So this budget increase is really getting us one-third of the way back to where we were just as recently as five or six years ago.”

County commissioners say they feel blindsided by the request.

“It was kind of like a political hand grenade they had tossed out there,” said Commission Chair Phil Matthews. “We feel like it's still more of a political move on the school board's side.”

Commissioners say the county can't afford to give the school system that much more money without raising taxes and that’s not an option since voters already approved a tax increase last fall to pay for $810 million school construction bond.

Commissioners claim the school system has money available in a fund balance and should use its own money instead of asking the county for more.

“They're sitting on about $85 million in their fund balance and our thoughts are they need to get their priorities in order if they want to take care of their staff,” Matthews said. “With $85 million, they could do a whole lot with that.”

School leaders say most of its $88 million fund balance is required by state law and governmental accounting standards to remain in reserves or was used to balance the current year’s budget.

The school system says there’s only $36 million available and they already plan to use $30 million of it to balance next year’s budget.

Matthews conceded teachers are the ones caught in the middle of all the political back-and-forth.

The school board is expected to pass its budget Tuesday night and send it to county commissioners for approval.

County commissioners must approve their budget to allot funding before July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year.

Clickhere to view the WCPSS proposed budget

Clickhere for additional information on the budget

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