On June 16, 2014, the Wake County Commissioners adopted the FY 2015 County Budget. The Commissioners opted not to approve the $39.3 million increase requested by the Wake County School Board, and instead gave the school district $10.2 million in extra funding. Instead of the $29.1 million needed to give all employees a 3.5 percent raise, the County Commissioners voted to fund only a one-time average $237 supplemental pay increase (before taxes) for teachers. The $3.75 million needed to fund these pay increases will come from excess county liquor sales.
At the School Board’s June 17, 2014 Work Session, WCPSS Chief Business Officer David Neter provided an update on the 2014-15 state budget proposals (Governor’s, Senate, House) under consideration at this time, along with an update on the Wake County approved 2014-15 budget. Before July 1, 2014, the beginning of the new fiscal year, the Board must adopt an interim budget. The interim budget allows operations to continue without any changes from current operations. Once the state budget is approved, a 2014-15 budget can be finalized. The School Board unanimously approved the proposed interim budget at the Board meeting that followed the work session.
- Link to Mr. Neter’s June 17, 2014 Budget Update presentation
- View WRAL’s recording of the June 17, 2014 Work Session
Impact of the State Budget
During the 2014-15 Legislative Session, many bills that have a direct impact on school district policy and operations, including funding, were passed. The 2014-15 budget bill (The Current Operations and Capital Improvements Appropriations Act of 2014) spends $855 less per student this year than in 2008 (adjusted for inflation). When budget cuts are made by the General Assembly, it is up to local authorities (county commissions or by the school district itself) to determine if it is possible to fund programs/resources that have been cut. The estimated changes in state funding, which add up to a $1.5 million net funding reduction are:
- $8.8m increase in teacher funding
- $(9.0m) decrease in teacher assistant funding
- $(520k) decrease in transportation funding
- $(97k) decrease central office staff funding
- $(739k) decrease at-risk student funding
- $91k increase in textbook funding
For growing districts like WCPSS, another new and significant impact
Historically, school districts were provided with “planning allotments” at the beginning of the school year that accounted for a district’s increase in average daily membership (ADM). In 2015, a new budget provision eliminates these up-front dollars used to fund additional staff and other resources needed to accommodate student population growth. School districts that do not have a sufficiently large fund balance (“rainy day” account) will be forced to make cuts to their current operating budget to cover costs. Moreover, school districts will not know until the following fiscal year whether their enrollment growth will actually be funded. WCPSS will grow by approximately 3,000 students in 2014-15.
On October 7, 2014, Chief Business Officer David Neter presented his final recommendations for reconciling the WCPSS 2014-15 Operating Budget with the approved state budget. His recommended adjustments included:
- Reduce base budget areas to create capacity
- Drive down amount of fund balance used to balance budget
- No reductions to schools / classrooms formulas
- No base budget reductions to schools / classrooms
- Maintain as many business cases as possible
- Align unassigned fund balance with policy
- Link to the final recommendations for WCPSS budget adjustments presentation
- View WRAL’s video of the presentation
Other Budget Materials
- Link to the WCPSS presentation made by Chief Business Officer David Neter at the April 22, 2014 Board Work Session
- Link to the 2014-15 School Board’s Proposed Budget and other important information
- Link to the Superintendent’s statement on the proposed budget
- Raleigh News and Observer editorial: Wake Schools Leader Boldly Seeks Big Boost in Budget
- Raleigh News & Observer op-ed by Tom Oxholm, former WCPSS Board member: It’s Time for Wake to Combat NC Education Atrocities at the County Level
- Link to the Wake County 2015 Proposed Budget
Background: Original 2014-15 Proposed Budget
Over the past decades, the Wake County public school student population has exploded; we are now the 16th largest school district in the nation. (According to National Association of Educators data, North Carolina boasts the largest growth in public school enrollment in the U.S.) In 2013-14 alone, the number of new students rose by 3,644 (up by 2.5 percent) and now totals 153,152. One new school opened in 2013-14, bringing the total number of WCPSS schools to 170. There are 104 elementary, 33 middle, 26 high, 4 special/optional schools, 1 academy (K-8), and 2 leadership academies (6-12). In 2014-15, one new school, Vernon Malone College & Career Academy, is set to open.
It is important to note that, between 2008-09 and 2013-14, the local county appropriation dropped by 6% while student growth increased by almost 11%. In his introductory comments to the School Board on March 18, 2014, Superintendent Merrill noted: “We must return to that level of academic success, prominence, creativity, and innovation. We cannot do so by letting growth alone consume all additional funding. Maintaining a level of funding for growth alone needs to be set as a non-negotiable minimum starting point. This community expects our schools to increase our graduation rates, diminish achievement gaps, and increase grade level proficiencies.”
At the same March meeting, WCPSS Chief Business Officer David Neter presented a first look at the Superintendent’s Proposed 2014 – 2015 Budget. The budget requests an increase of $39 million in County appropriations and reflects two major goals. By 2020, WCPSS will:
- have the highest local investment for students in NC (an additional $400 per student)
- pay its teachers at the national average of teacher salaries (an additional $130 million over the next five years)
The Wake County Public School System is the second largest employer in the county. For fiscal year 2013-14, the total proposed budget is $1.834 billion. Of that figure, $1.373 billion represents the operating budget. The remaining dollars represent the school building program that is funded through taxpayer bonds.
Budget priorities included:
- $930k in literacy initiatives (p. 188)
- $1.75m in targeted elementary school funds for differentiated resourcing (p. 183)
- $305k in targeted High School Intervention Coordinators (p.197)
- $1.7m expansion of Pre-K services (p.123, 125, 127)
- $610k 2nd year phased implementation of Technology Facilitators (p.193)
- $150k start-up planning & professional development funding for Knightdale Education Working Group
- 3.5 % salary locally funded salary increase for all employees
The proposed budget assumes that there will be an additional 3,000 students in 2014-15.
Here is a year-to-year summary comparison of the approved 2013-14 and proposed 2014-15 WCPSS budgets:
|Total Budget (billions)||1.378||1.833|
|Total Operating Budget (billions)||1.308||1.373|
What’s the Budget Cycle?
- The Superintendent shall prepare an annual budget and submit it with a budget message to the Board of Education (BOE) not later than April 15.
- The BOE shall hold at least one public hearing on the proposed budget prior to final action.
- The BOE must submit the entire approved budget to the Board of Commissioners (BOC) not later than May 15 (or such later date as may be fixed by the BOC. The BOC shall complete action on the school budget on or before July 1, or such later date as may be agreeable to the BOE.
- If adoption of the budget is delayed until after July 1, the Board shall make interim appropriations for the purpose of paying salaries and the usual ordinary expenses of the school system for the interval between the beginning of the fiscal year and the adoption of the budget resolution.
What You Can Do to Advocate for Funding in Future Years
- Be informed! Review the various proposed budgets. Attend Board Work Sessions or listen to meetings online.
- Speak up at Board of Education meetings and public hearings
- Attend a Board of Commissioners budget presentation, participate in a public hearing