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Powerful GOP lawmaker jabs back at Wake schools over budget

May 9, 2019

After Wake County Schools Superintendent Cathy Moore tied much of her request for nearly $49 million in new county funding for the 2019-20 school year to state requirements, a top state senator fired back, calling the school district irresponsible and wasteful.

The school board last month approved Moore’s budget for the coming year, which includes a a $48.8 million increase in local funding, and submitted the request to Wake County officials. County Manager David Ellis included a $36.5 million increase in school funding in his budget proposal, which calls for a 9.8 percent property tax increase.

Moore said $19.5 million of her local funding request is driven by the need to meet state requirements, such as smaller classes in early grades, passing money through to charter schools and the local share of growing personnel costs.

“The Wake County School Board is masking its own lack of discipline with the discredited and lazy accusation that the state legislature isn’t giving them enough money,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown said in a statement Wednesday.

Brown, R-Onslow, is a chief budget writer for the Senate, which next week will start crafting its spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

“They had 42 new students and received $27 million extra dollars last school year,” he said. “The unfortunate residents that this school board is trying to tax into oblivion deserve to know just what exactly Wake County is spending all this money on.”

Moore said last month that $8.2 million is needed to open four schools: Parkside Elementary School, Southeast Raleigh Elementary School, Alston Ridge Middle School and Green Level High School.

The statement initially said the district received an extra $47 million in state funding this year, but Brown’s office admitted the error when asked about it.

“It is true that the total dollars appropriated by the state to the WCPSS is at the highest level ever.  However, when one considers the per-capita funding level, and the cost of inflation, comparison of the 2018-19 to 2006-07 appropriations demonstrates there has been no progress,” Jim Martin, chairman of the Wake County Board of Education, said in an email to WRAL News.

Martin noted that enrollment growth plays no role in the K-3 class size restrictions and the local share of higher teacher salaries, both of which added to the district’s budget.

“The Wake County Board of Education, and the superintendent and her staff, are committed to being responsible stewards of taxpayer funding and are working carefully and strategically to create the best opportunities for each student in Wake County, as well as for all of our employees,” he wrote.

Brown also criticized Ellis for proposing the large property tax increase while state lawmakers are cutting taxes.

Last week, Republican lawmakers took issue with the thousands of teachers who rallied at the legislature for more education funding, posting signs throughout the building touting higher teacher salaries and money they’ve put into public schools in recent years.