News: Quick Takes

Senate GOP leader takes aim at Wake school board

Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, R-Onslow, speaks after a 2019 committee meeting. CJ photo by Don Carrington.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, R-Onslow, speaks after a 2019 committee meeting. CJ photo by Don Carrington.

The N.C. Senate majority leader is rebutting claims from the Wake County school board that state government is underfunding North Carolina’s largest school system.

“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,” said Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, in a prepared statement. “They had 42 new students and received 47 million extra dollars last school year. 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.”

In addition to leading the Senate Republican caucus, Brown co-chairs the chamber’s budget-writing Appropriations Committee.

A news release from Senate Republicans carries the following headline: “Don’t Be Fooled: State Funding for Wake County Schools Is Highest Ever.”

The release focuses on Wake school board members’ complaints that low state funding levels prompted them to seek increased local funding that requires a tax increase.

“The Wake County School Board, controlled by Democrats, blamed the Republican N.C. General Assembly for ‘underfunding’ schools in the county in an attempt to justify a massive tax hike proposed for Wake County residents,” according to the Senate news release.

“This year’s state funding allocation to Wake County is the highest in history at nearly $1 billion,” the release continues. “Wake County’s public school enrollment increased by 42 students last school year, while state funding for the county’s schools increased by $47 million. That comes out to $1.1 million for each additional student last school year.”

GOP Senate leaders also contrast Wake County’s fiscal management to recent action from the General Assembly. “The Wake County Commission is considering a massive 10 percent property tax hike, in part because of the undisciplined Wake County School Board,” according to the release. “By contrast, the N.C. General Assembly has cut taxes and still managed to invest more in education — including Wake County schools — than any time in the history of the state.”

The Wake County manager’s proposed budget includes a 6.36-cent property tax increase. That would raise the rate by almost 10 percent. With a new rate of 71.8 cents per $100 of assessed property value, the owner of a $300,000 house would see his county property tax bill increase by $191 to $2,154.

The release features a chart (above right) of state government allocation of money to the Wake County public schools. The information comes from the General Assembly’s nonpartisan Fiscal Research Division. “This year’s allocation of nearly $1 billion is 40 percent higher than the last year of Democratic control in the legislature, and 31 percent higher than the largest allocation under Democratic control,” according to the news release.