WCPSS Board Justifies Cuts Effecting Classrooms While Making Multi-Million Land Purchase

Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) has a budget of over $1.4 billion dollars.  Despite the large budget, WCPSS’s board has been wrestling with a budget gap of around $17.5 million.

Earlier this year, the Wake County Board of Commissioners did not give the district the $35.7 million increase they requested.  The Board of Commissioners had given the district over $44 million the prior year, but this year the Commissioners priority seems to be on their proposed transit plan.

In order to balance the budget, the WCPSS board has compiled a list of budget cuts. The vast majority of these cuts will impact the classroom directly.  It appears the board has chosen the route that would yield the most pain for students and teachers.

Meanwhile, the board approved purchasing a car dealership’s property near downtown Raleigh to the tune of over $6.3 million dollars.  The full amount is actually $6,351,695.

The board plans to convert the car dealership into a high school campus instead of building one from the ground up.  The Wake Board of Commissioners will need to approve the purchase.

Back in May, the WCPSS board approved a $1.98 billion dollar building construction program.

The area where the dealership is located is right on Capital Boulevard and not in particularly good shape as the News and Observer reported:

The City of Raleigh’s 2012 Capital Boulevard Corridor Study described the stretch from the Beltline to downtown as “the most-travelled and least-loved gateway into downtown Raleigh.” Since then, the city has taken steps to improve the corridor’s appearance.

“We just think it fits really neatly into plans for development for that corridor,” Benton said.

Benton said the new school could open as soon as 2019 depending on when the dealership moves and how long it takes to renovate the property.

It is unclear if there has been an estimate done on what renovations to the property would cost or how long they would take.

Details and Documentation of the proposed car dealership purchase:

Benton also told Time Warner Cable news he had no idea what percent of funding is “wrapped up in salaries”:

Facing an over $17 million funding gap, board chairman Tom Benton says they were left with few options, as a large amount of funds go directly to the schools and staff.

“We can’t really go in and start cutting that,” said chairman Tom Benton. “I don’t know what percent is wrapped up in salaries, so the only way to start cutting those is to cut local supplement or to cut people, fire them, and we’re not willing to do that.”

This statement by Benton is interesting since in July Wake County Superintendent Merrill had requested all non-teaching staff receive a 3% pay raise.  This proposal would cost around $2.9 million dollars, according to supporting documents from the WCPSS board work session.

Earlier this year, the WCPSS board amended Superintendent Merrill’s contract by increasing his compensation from $275,000 to $281,302 and extended his end date to 2019.

The board justified Merrill’s increase by stating it is based on his performance on goals set by the board.  This website asked for a copy of these goals, however, WCPSS school attorneys said that despite the goals being tied to taxpayer-funded compensation, the list of Merrill’s goals is not a public record and declined to release them.

The WCPSS board also made Merrill nearly fire-proof by adding a clause that would require a payout of two years of severance pay totaling $560,000.

The WCPSS board also increased the teacher supplemental pay by $44 million.

The bottom line is the majority of these cuts will translate to a direct impact on the classroom, the kids, and the teachers. Teachers more often than not reach into their own pockets for supplies, yet the WCPSS board is cutting student supply fund allotment.

The board also focused on cutting back on classroom and school cleaning.

List of recommended cuts:

  • Freeze Central Office vacancies 90 days – $1 m savings
  • Increase Indirect Cost Revenue estimate – $700 k
  • Reduce Central Services Contract budgets – $2 m
  • Transportation budget reduction to absorb state reduction – $200 k
  • Remove New Business Case for Instructional Technology Facilitators – $843 k
  • Remove New Business Case for MS Performing & Visual Arts MOE – $400 k
  • Remove Program Continuity Business Cases for Title II – $1.1 m
  • Repurpose DSSF funding – $1 m
  • Adjust Academics Allotments based upon actual allotments – $229 k
  • Custodial service reduction of 1 day/week – $3.6 m
  • Heating & Cooling set points adjusted by 1 degree $405 k
  • Decrease Instructional Supply allotment by $3.04 per student* – $481 k
  • Increase Elementary & Middle School ADM formulas by .3 & .15 respectively – $2.7
  •  Increase fund balance appropriated by $3 m

Pages 9-11 of the proposed budget presentation laid out three scenarios involving custodial cleanings being cut paired with other options for additional cuts.

All of the scenarios and options referenced savings from ‘transportation changes’ to the tune of $694,000, however, the transportation changes are not part of the recommended cuts list.

The WCPSS board documentation also did not include the increase in school meal prices.  This is the first meal price hike in 5 years. The K-5 breakfast jumps from $1.00 to $1.25 and lunch from $2.00 to $2.25 Middle and High school breakfasts rise from $1.25 to $1.50 and the lunch will rise from $2.25 to $2.50.

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About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a reporter currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_ Tips: APDillon@Protonmail.com
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