Jim Hartmann, the Wake County manager, said Monday that the Wake school system isn't spending all the money it got from county coffers in the current budget year and doesn't need the $45 million in new funding it requested for the coming year.
Instead, Hartmann proposed during a meeting of the Wake County Board of Commissioners that the system should be able to meet its needs with an additional $16 million from the county. Under North Carolina’s system, the schools have no taxing power, so that the board that oversees public education has to request funding from the county.
Hartmann proposed an overall county budget of $1.24 billion, an increase of $38.3 million over the current budget year, which ends June 31. The budget contains a property tax increase of $1.45 cents, roughly $39 annually for a house with the average Wake value of $270,000.
The idea that the school system should count some of the funding that it has left at the end of the budget year for the next year was advanced regularly by a Republican-controlled board of commissioners in the 2000s and early 2010s. But they were not successful in having it adopted.
"They've shown a history of having about twenty million dollars that they don't spend," said Johnna Rogers, deputy county manager and chief financial officer. "They were able to do things more efficiently or use more state money."
Hartmann noted in his budget presentation that the county typically uses state funds first, a practice he applauded. However, he objected to the school system's practice of maintaining unused funds from year-to-year in case of emergencies or unexpected expenses.
"Given that how much money spent in one year should have a direct correlation in how the next year’s budget is developed, I must consider the school system’s actual results and use of recurring funding in evaluating the school system’s request," Hartmann said in his presentation. "I do this in the same manner as I evaluate county departments’ requests. Funds unused from prior-year appropriations should be considered in building a budget request before asking for new dollars, particularly if a tax increase is required."
School board members were to discuss Hartmann's proposal during a three p.m. work session scheduled for Tuesday at Wake County Public Schools headquarters in Cary. Commissioners did not appear not united behind the plan after it was presented.
"This is the county manager's proposal," said Commissioner Jessica Holmes, indicating that she would be discussing possible changes to the plan with her colleagues.
Public hearings on the budget are scheduled for:
- 2 p.m. June 5 at the board's regularly scheduled work session, Wake County Justice Building. 300 Salisbury Street, Raleigh.
- 7 p.m. June 5 at the Wake County Commons building, 4011 Carya Drive. (Take the Poole Road exit from I-440 and head south. Turn left on Carya.)
- 9 a.m. June 12, Board of Commissioners work session, Wake County Justice Center.
- 2 p.m. June 19, Board of Commissioners considers budget adoption.