Matthews spikes school proposal

jwhitfield@newsobserver.comApril 25, 2014 

— Wake County Commissioners chairman Phil Matthews’ blamed the county’s school board for making proposals on teachers pay without talking with commissioners first.

Matthews was the guest speaker at the McCuller’s Ruritan Club Tuesday night. While his prepared remarks focused on recent county successes, including the early, under-budget completion of the Wake County Justice Center, Matthews lost little time criticizing school board members following a question about raising teacher pay.

“We didn’t like the way that was handled,” Matthews said, referring to school superintendent Jim Merrill’s budget proposal, which was presented to school board members and included a request that county commissioners provide an additional $29 million to raise teacher pay across the county.

Matthews said he first learned of the proposal when a reporter called him about it. “I didn’t know what to say. I hadn’t heard anything about it. The county manager and staff hadn’t heard anything about it. We felt like we had gotten thrown under the bus,” Matthews said.

Matthews also said the school system was sitting on money it could use to boost teacher pay. “We learned they have $88 million in fund balance that’s not going anywhere,” Matthews said.

He was referring to the school system’s unreserved fund balance, which is a savings account set aside for unbudgeted expenses. School officials disputed that number at last week’s school board meeting, pointing out that $52 million of that amount is actually reserved for specific expenses such as school construction and can’t be spent for other needs.

Wake County has its own fund balance, but county officials were unable to determine how much the county has set aside in savings. A June 2013 audit shows the county has $196 million in fund balance.

Whitfield: 919-829-4823; Twitter: @GarnerCleveland

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