The Costly Wake County Scheme

Wake County officials break ground on June 29, 2017 at the construction site of Willow Spring High School. The school will house overflow students to meet House Bill 13 passed by the North Carolina Senate. (Photo used by permission of The News and Observer)Wake County officials break ground on June 29, 2017 at the construction site of Willow Spring High School. The school will house overflow students to meet House Bill 13 passed by the North Carolina Senate. (Photo used by permission of The News and Observer)

On April 25, 2017, the North Carolina Senate passed House Bill 13, which aims to lower school class sizes, while also addressing concern of specials classes, such as music and art.

The bill was passed to put a cap on students in one classroom to the maximum of 19 people in grades kindergarten to third grade, as some Wake County classrooms exceed 40 students.

But in order to oblige the bill, one of two things need to occur: Either new schools and new teachers need to be hired to house these students, or classes like art and music will need to be cut. Wake County officials estimate it would cost about $26 million to hire 460 more teachers without eliminating art, music, and physical education. Senate Republicans will have to come up with a way to fund teachers for these specials classes.

Building new schools will cost Wake County billions of dollars, and most administrators say that Wake County needs 17 new schools by 2022. But most overcrowded schools are undergoing construction to add more classrooms, like North Ridge Elementary and Vandora Springs Elementary, each project costing around $37 million.

The CIP 2013, or Community Improvement Program budget, is divided into 5 different categories: renovation, new construction, property, technology, and program expense. In total the budget combines to a total of $1,001,458,021, $836,116,745 of which has been raised.

Average elementary schools can cost anywhere from $30 to $40 million to build, middle schools can cost between $60 to $70, and high schools usually exceed $100 million. Wake County funding for building these schools comes from bonds and taxes. For example, The Board of Commissioners passed an increase of property tax by $1.45 per $100 value this past year. This higher property tax would raise the Wake School fund to $21 million, less than half of the $45 million the schools originally asked for.

Although House Bill 13 has provided a storm of controversy between Wake County officials and state legislation, the bill has provided new schools and has also allowed Wake County to adjust their budget accordingly.

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