Wake County school board discusses potential cuts

CARY, N.C. (WNCN) – The Wake County School Board held a special meeting Tuesday to discuss what might have to cut if the district doesn’t get the full funding requested for from Wake County.

Nothing is set in stone yet because the state and the county still have to finalize budgets. But as it stands, it looks like the school system may fall $11.8 million short in local funding.

Now the board is discussing what could be cut to make up for that shortfall.

The school board asked for $35.7 million from the county for the coming year’s budget. Tim Lavallee with WakeEd Partnership says that was a pretty lean budget to begin with, and was mostly driven by growth and legislative impact.

“Growth meaning there are schools, they’re opening five new schools to accommodate overcrowding and other areas, to accommodate new enrollment. Legislative impact is any changes that are made at the state level in the general assembly with the budget often have a local impact,” said Lavallee.

Of the requested funding, $3.7 million would go to new or expanding programs, which would be cut first if the school system only receives $23 million from Wake County.

“We are already over the amount of money they have proposed to be allocated for the coming year. That leaves no room for us to initiate any new type of programs unless we go in and cut areas of the budget from existing programs,” said Tom Benton, Chair of the Wake County Board of Education.

Deeper cuts would include increasing class sizes by one student, requiring a fee to participate in extracurricular activities, and even reducing the number of days a week facilities are cleaned. The school system is hoping it doesn’t come to that, but admits the funding gap is frustrating when so many are calling for better education in the state.

“It’s the partnership’s hope that we will reach a point where education funding is not something that is always so contentious, that we can get to a point where we can say, ‘this is the number that’s needed, let’s spend it,’” said Lavallee.

The Wake County Board of Commissioners will adopt its budget plan in the middle of June. The school board says they won’t cut anything until they know the final dollar amount they’re dealing with.

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