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Wake County Superintendent's budget includes locally-funded raises

The entrance to the Wake County Public Schools administration office.
Brian Batista
The entrance to the Wake County Public Schools administration office.

Wake County schools' superintendent Catty Moore shared a budget proposal with the school board Tuesday night that would require a 9% increase in county funding to pay for school employee raises and school improvements.

“Our people are our greatest strength. For this reason, the largest line item in this budget proposal is $25.8 million to improve employee compensation,” Moore said.

Moore’s proposed budget for Wake County Schools would raise teachers’ locally-funded salary supplements by 4.5%. That represents a 10.5% total increase to the school district’s local supplements for certified staff since 2018.

The budget would also increase the minimum wage for hourly support staff from $16 to $17 an hour. Moore says this recommendation would continue the district's plan to align school employee salaries with Wake County's rising cost-of-living and prevailing wages for similar jobs.

School employees affiliated with the Wake County chapter of the North Carolina Association of Educators spoke during public comment to call for higher raises and improved working conditions. Child nutrition staff spoke about living paycheck-to-paycheck. Bus safety monitors described poor lighting and bathroom facilities at bus parking lots.

“We’re asking for buildings and facilities that allow us to do our jobs with dignity,” said Wake NCAE president Christina Spears. “We’re asking for livable wages so our folks don’t have to work multiple jobs and can serve our students with attention and care.”

Ana Stratis, the child nutrition services manager at Oberlin Magnet Middle School, asked the school board to raise the minimum wage for hourly employees to $18.51 to meet the MIT Living Wage Calculator estimation for a livable wage in Wake County.

“How can you expect your employees to survive when they are making 15% less than the minimum livable wage? You can’t,” Stratis said.

School district officials are estimating at least a 3% raise for school employee salaries in the state budget. The House has proposed a higher increase, and the Senate is expected to release its budget proposal later this spring.

Moore’s other budget priorities include building repairs, hiring more school counselors and behavioral support staff, and expanding special education services.

In recent years, Wake County Schools has used federal COVID-19 relief funds to expand and hire some staff positions, including behavioral health and technology support positions. Those funds will now soon expire. This budget would shift $32 million in spending that was previously paid for with one-time relief to other funding sources.

Moore also noted expected increases in state legislated expenditures for retirement and hospitalization rates and for local funds that pass through to charter schools. Wake County Schools will send $61 million in local funding to charter schools in the county, which represents a 7% increase from the prior budget.

School boards do not have the power to levy taxes in North Carolina, so this budget proposal depends on whether the county commission will agree to raise local spending on schools by $55.8 million, a 9% increase from the district’s current locally-funded appropriation.

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
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