Wake Schools could need $56M more in local funding next year, superintendent says

Jim Merrill, superintendent of Wake County schools


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Investing in our schools always comes with a price.

In Wake County, Superintendent James Merrill says that price could be as high as $56 million more next year.

Across the state, the importance of teacher pay raises and of lowering class sizes has been well discussed.

It’s going to take money and in Wake County, the state’s largest school system, that likely means an impact on people at home.

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“These kids are our future. They’re going to be the next TV producer, the next astronaut, the next doctor, nurse, lawyer,” said parent Lisa Lisek.

Lisek said that’s all the reason she needs to invest in our schools.

Other Wake County parents CBS North Carolina spoke with agree.

“Investing in our children is never a wrong choice,” said Jeannie Thomson.

Merrill is anticipating the school system will need about $56 million more this year in local funding.

That request would go to the Wake County commission.

“We’re growing by 64 people a day. There are a lot of needs in this county and all of that has to be weighed out and, ultimately, coming up with a decision that works for everybody,” said Sig Hutchinson, Wake County Commission chair.

Hutchinson tells CBS North Carolina if the superintendent’s budget is approved as written, it would mean a four-cent property tax increase.

For context, that would mean $80 more a year for a $200,000 house.

Part of the money would go to hiring more teachers.

The state budget requires smaller class sizes in K-3.

Another part of that money would go to bus drivers.

“Finding drivers at the rate they pay is real difficult,” Hutchinson said.

School officials across the state say that impacts their flexibility to be able to pay for specialty courses, like art and music teachers.

“Before sending pink slips out and before getting teachers drawing unemployment this summer, we need to come up with a fix and i think we will soon,” said Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph).

Tillman said school systems statewide were allotted the correct funding but he says it does need to be addressed.

There is a compromise bill pending in the General Assembly that would address that flexibility issue but some lawmakers say they may have other proposals.

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