While teacher raises remain questionable in the state budget, Wake County Commissioners adopted a budget that includes an additional $3.75 million to be used toward increasing the county supplement.
The yearly increase, which averages between $200 and $300 per teacher, will be funded with ABC Board revenues.
Earlier this month, Commissioners called for county staff to figure out a way to increase the county supplement so that Wake County has the highest in the state. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system previously held the top spot with a supplement of $6,400. Wake teachers will now receive anywhere between $6,400 and $6,500.
Commissioner Betty Lou Ward said the increase wasn’t nearly enough. She cast the lone vote against the $1.066 billion budget.
“They need more money,” she said.
Commissioner Caroline Sullivan agreed the budget does not fund the school system adequately.
“I do think this is going to be the best we’re going to get from this board,” said Sullivan, who voted for the budget because she said it funded other needed services.
Sullivan called for Commissioners to consider a quarter-cent sales tax increase to be put on November’s ballot to fund the school district’s operating expenses and teacher salaries.
Both Mecklenburg and Guilford county commissioners are expected to vote on similar actions this week.
Sullivan said the district is already losing teachers who are either changing careers or moving to other areas to make more money.
“We’re going to have a problem with them going to other counties,” she said. She asked staff to include a discussion on the topic on the July agenda.
Commission chair Phil Matthews said they’d take it under consideration at their next agenda meeting.
The budget includes a 4.4-cent tax increase to fund school construction projects, which was approved by voters last November. Last year, county staff projected a 4.86-cent increase, but decreased the amount after further review. Commissioner James West asked why that difference, $5.8 million, couldn’t be used toward teacher salaries.
Matthews said that it couldn’t and didn’t specify why, but Deputy County Manager Johnna Rogers said, “It would be at the discretion of the board as to where you would choose to have that appropriated.”
The 4.3 percent increase of $13.9 million to the school district is a far cry from the $39 million increase that Wake Schools Superintendent Jim Merrill requested earlier this year that would, in part, fund a 3.5 percent across-the-board raise for teachers.
County Manager Jim Hartmann included $10.2 million to fund the educational incentives proposed in Merrill’s budget, and did not originally include a raise for teachers. Commissioners worked out a funding mechanism for raises at a work session last week.
Some Budget Highlights
- Includes an average 2.75 percent salary increase for county employees
- Added positions in various departments including inspections, health and human services and public safety
- Funding for 10 school nurses for underserved areas
- $287,000 will be used to fund the new Vernon Malone College and Career Academy
- $950,000 will fund additional EMS positions and equipment replacement