Is declining state support driving WCPSS requests for more dollars?
Recently, Wake County Commissioners heard an earful from taxpayers, many of whom came to oppose the proposed 9.7 percent property tax increase.
Commissioners will vote on the budget on June 3.
Last year Wake County Commissioners approved a 4-cent property tax rate increase and an additional $30 million for the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS), who had originally requested $58.9 million in additional money.
It was the fifth consecutive year commissioners had approved a property tax increase.
But back to Wake County Public Schools.
Much of the additional money would go to WCPSS. Under the proposed 2019-20 budget, WCPSS would get $36.5 million more in funding. The funding represents about three-quarters of the $48.3 million dollars WCPSS had requested from the county.
So why is WCPSS asking for more funding?
Lack of state funding. That’s what WCPSS officials say is behind their request for an additional $48 million from the county to fund the schools.
School Board member Bill Fletcher told the News and Observer, “The issue is not with the county. The issue is with the state and the annual reduction in the contribution of the state to what the Constitution says is a state-funded operation of the schools.”
Has support declined as WCPSS claims?
To answer that question, we pulled together expenditure data by source from 2012-13 to 2017-18 from the Statistical Profile of the North Carolina Public Schools. We choose 2012-13 since it was the first full year of recovery after the Great Recession. We use 2018 constant dollars to include the impacts of inflation.
What did we find?
|WCPSS Expenditures by Source of Income
(Constant 2018 Dollars)
|WCPSS Per Student Dollars (Constant 2018 Dollars)|
Source: Statistical Profile of North Carolina Public Schools
While enrollment was up 6.6 percent, overall spending increased by more than twice that number (13.6 percent), even adjusting for inflation. In addition, the number of full-time staff also increased 8.2 percent.
WCPSS officials cite declining state support as the reason for its recent requests for additional funding from the Wake County Commissioners. A look at the data for the last six years suggests otherwise. Over that time, state dollars to WCPSS increased 12 percent from approximately $810 million to $907.5 million. Total dollars increased 13.6 percent, federal and local dollars moved in opposite directions with local support increasing by 22 percent and federal revenues declining by 3 percent over the period.
State support for WCPSS increased every year since 2012-13, while the value of federal support declined over the same period.
Saying Wake County Schools’ need for additional budget dollars because of declining state support is simply not supported by recent data.
While enrollment increased some 9,800 students over the period, WCPSS also added over 1,400 new staff and about $174 million to its budget.
Recall, again, that all the dollar figures are adjusted to 2018 constant dollars, so they account for inflation. The spending increase in nominal terms would be noticeably greater.
These numbers would suggest that WCPSS does not have a revenue problem — but a spending problem and taxpayers are paying the consequences.