RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — More money for schools likely will mean higher taxes for people in Wake County.
The county is growing by 67 people a day. That growth is the driving force behind a budget proposal with a property tax increase.
Wake County Manager Jim Hartmann presented his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year to county commissioners today. Most of the $1.26 billion dollar proposal, about 52 percent of it, goes to the Wake County Public School System.
Wake County Schools asked the county for an extra $45.2 million this year in local funds. In the county manager’s budget, there would be an extra $16 million to the school system. Hartmann says the majority of the remaining money would come from unspent local funds.
“If they take another approach to their budgeting, they should be able to accommodate their needs this year for that,” said Hartmann.
Wake County school board members were quick to push back Monday evening.
“The reaction is a little bit of shock,” said board chairwoman Monika Johnson-Hostler. “Using the rainy-day fund is not a sustainable mechanism for funding. And, I think most people will understand and agree with us.”
Johnson-Hostler and other board members spoke Monday at a community event at the NC Association of Educators in Raleigh.
County Commissioner Greg Ford attended as well, stressing that the county manager’s budget proposal is a recommendation. He didn’t say if there’s a specific funding increase for the school district that he would support.
The increased funding the school district requested would fund a variety of things including: hiring more counselors and social workers, addressing requirements on class size and expanding the equity affairs office.
“We’ve been in national news around conflicts with our students around race,” said Kristin Beller, a kindergarten teacher at Joyner Elementary in Raleigh.
The proposed budget also includes a 1.45-cent property tax increase. For a $270,000 home, which is the average value of a home in Wake County, that would mean about an extra $39 a year.
“These are the choices that we have to make,” said Hartmann. “I approach it from the most reasonable and responsible point that I can.”
Parents that we spoke with did not hesitate to tell us what they think the county’s spending priorities should be.
“The children are our future,” said Shante Crowell, a Wake County parent. “If we are not investing in them, what is our future going to be?”
Some say the tax increase is too much.
“We’re being taxed, I think, enough in Wake County,” said Gerald Goodwin, a Wake County taxpayer. “It’s a tax here and a tax there.”
The decision about the budget is now before the Wake County Commission.
There will be two public hearings, both on June 5, about the budget proposal. Wake County Commissioners will then hold a work session on the budget on June 12 before voting on it a week later on June 19.