Wake County Board of Commissioners

classroom
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Wake County school board members have made some creative cuts to fill a $17.5 million budget gap.

Board members approved a 2016-2017 operating budget this week that they say manages to avoid any layoffs, but reduces air conditioning usage slightly, cuts the number of days schools are swept and vacuumed and increases class sizes.

Photo: A voting ballot
Flickr Creative Commons/ Ken Zirkel

A federal judge in Raleigh is hearing arguments this week on a case that challenges the legality of new electoral maps for the Wake County boards of commissioners and education. While several lawsuits have challenged the constitutionality of districts drawn by the Republican-majority General Assembly since 2011, this one focuses on the maps in only one county.

A picture of a folded wad of cash.
401kcalculator.org / Flickr

Wake County Commissioners voted yesterday to raise the pay floor for county employees to $13.50 per-hour.

Governor McCrory's recommended budget
NC Office of State Budget and Management

Government employees across the state are working on budgets this month. Officials in rural towns, big cities and the Capitol are finalizing spending plans for the fiscal year beginning July 1st. But the process, speed and  public involvement required to craft a fiscal blueprint can vary significantly.

A couple of weeks ago, House lawmakers held a marathon floor session where they debated their budget proposal for more than eight hours. Toward the end of the debate, senior Republican budget writer Nelson Dollar rose from his seat to make a final pitch.

CAT Bus Route #4 Rex Hospital at a bus stop on Hillsborough Street in Downtown Raleigh.
Mywebsite1234000 / Wikipedia

Wake County has taken plans for a light rail system off the table, for now.

The county's Transit Advisory Committee voted this week on which plans to present for public comment.

Jason Horne of Raleigh is on the 50-plus member committee.

"We have a duty, I believe, to give the best bang for the buck to the tax payers who are investing in this. And the light rail is significantly more expensive for the benefit that you would get when we could get a lot of the same benefit at the much lower cost with bus rapid transit or rapid rail transit."

Photo: NC Legislative building
Jorge Valencia

A busy Tuesday at the General Assembly ended with mixed results for proposals on religion, taxes and redistricting.

A bill that could allow private businesses to refuse service to someone based on personal religious beliefs could stall in the House. 

Meanwhile, the House and Senate agreed to lower North Carolina's gas tax by 3.5 cents over the next year. And a House committee approved a measure that would redistrict Wake County's Board of Commissioners.

House Under Construction
Dave DeWitt

 Members of the Cary Town Council are calling on county officials to help address the issue of overcrowding in Wake County public schools.

Earlier this month, the council tabled a request to rezone about 58 acres in west Cary that would have created 130 new homes.

Some members say they don’t feel comfortable moving forward with the plan just yet – at least not while many of the nearby schools are at or above capacity.

The four Democratic winners pose with Congressman David Price
Reema Khrais

After sweeping all four open seats, Democrats now have full control of the Wake County Board of Commissioners.

“It looks like we did it. The people of Wake County have chosen to move forward,” said John Burns, a business lawyer from Raleigh. He unseated Coble.

Democrats Matt Calabria, Sig Hutchinson, John Burns and Jessica Holmes each captured about 55 percent of the vote, defeating Commissioners Joe Bryant, Paul Coble, Phil Matthews and Rich Gianni.

A picture of an 'I Voted' sticker.
Vox Efx / Flickr

Four out of of seven seats on Wake County's Board of Commissioners are up for election. Republicans currently occupy those positions, but if just one of them loses, Democrats will have a majority on the board.

The Democratic and Republican candidates for the four seats up for election differentiate themselves mostly by ideology. The Republican incumbents are loath to raise taxes and are not openly supportive of a transit tax proposal. Their relationship with the county school board has been tense.

Wake County commissioners heard from health officials today on the county's readiness should an Ebola case be diagnosed here.  The leaders cited several calls of concern they've received from residents after the disease was discovered in a hospital patient in Texas. 

Wake County health experts say they are working with hospitals, universities and airport authorities to ensure the earliest warnings are given should a case appear in North Carolina.  

Brent Myers is the medical director for Wake County EMS.  He says the county's efforts are being replicated across the state.

Wake County
www.wakegov.com

Wake County is celebrating a major milestone this week. Latest numbers show the county will welcome its one millionth resident.

So, bring out the pulled pork and the craft beer!  If calculations from the Census Bureau and the Carolina Population Center are correct, Wake County will have one million residents by Friday.

Phil Matthews is Chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners.

Glenwood Elementary students
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

Wake commissioners voted Monday against a referendum that could have raised the county's sales tax by a quarter-cent to generate about $28 million to go toward public schools.

Some Wake Commissioners wanted to hold the vote because the General Assembly might limit their ability to raise sales taxes. Lawmakers want to cap the local sales tax rate to 2.5 percent. The measure would allow some of the large urban counties, including Wake, to bypass that requirement if they levy a quarter percent tax this November.

David Benbennick via wikimedia commons

The chair of the Wake County school board says the board will consider county commissioners' request for more authority over school construction.

For at least the past 11 years, Wake County commissioners have tried to gain control in the design and maintenance of schools. Just this week they passed a proposal - asking the school board if they can at least share the responsibility.

A 14-mile light rail line is part of Triangle Transit's proposal for Wake County.
Triangle Transit Authority

Commissioners in Wake County are holding their first public discussion about a plan for expanded bus and light rail services.

The board meets Tuesday morning with three transit experts from outside the state.  It's the county's first public meeting about the plan, which Triangle Transit Authority presented in 2011.  Commissioners have declined to bring it up for discussion since then. 

Commissioner Paul Coble says he wants a second opinion.

An artist's rendering of the Northeast Regional Library planned for Raleigh.
Streamside Perspective / Wake County

Commissioners in Wake County have started the process of reviving construction projects for new libraries.  The board voted Monday night to revisit plans for a regional library in northeast Raleigh. 

The county drew up a design in 2007, but construction was postponed during the recession.  Voters passed a $45 million bond that year for library projects across the county, but commissioner Phil Matthews suggested this week that staff members should review population growth before going ahead with other plans in Garner, Cary and Fuquay-Varina.

wakegov.com

Wake County commissioners are moving forward with an effort to assess the county's transit needs.  Members unanimously voted this week to bring in experts from outside the county to look at a current plan to improve transportation. 

Those ideas include expanding local and commuter bus service and building a commuter rail system from Garner to Durham.  The plan would cost Wake County more than half a billion dollars. David Cooke serves as county manager and says experts will analyze transportation needs beyond just Wake County.

wake bus
Dave DeWitt

The Wake County Republican Party is opposing bond referendums for Raleigh transportation and public school construction projects. 

Voters will decide in October whether to approve $75 million in improvements to sidewalks and roads as well as traffic calming projects in Raleigh.  The Wake GOP executive committee says it voted to oppose that bond due to the city's accumulating debt. 

Wake County School Bus
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

The last time Wake County voters had a chance to decide on a nearly $1 billion school bond, they passed it. That was seven years ago. But in 1999, a school bond failed, due to concern over higher taxes.

That mixed history has school leaders on edge. They say a new bond is essential to serving the district’s 150,000 students. Another 20,000 are expected within the next five years. They hope to build 16 new schools and make major renovations to other building to deal with that growth.

School bus
Dave DeWitt

The North Carolina House has voted down a bill that would have handed over school construction and maintenance responsibilities to the Wake County Commissioners.

The bill would have taken that responsibility away from the Wake County School Board. Supporters argued that the county commissioners have more experience in school construction. Opponents warned that the Legislature should not set a precedent in a local dispute.

The Wake County Board of Commissioners voted to endorse the upcoming statewide ballot measure to ban gay marriage. Dave DeWitt reports that the vote was along party lines.

Dave DeWitt: Board Chair Paul Coble spearheaded the Wake Commissioners’ effort to support the amendment that would ban gay marriage. Three of his Republican colleagues also voted yes. The three democrats voted no.

About 20 people spoke out before the vote was taken, just one was in favor of the ban. The majority of speakers called it heavy-handed and an intrusion of privacy.

A new Republican majority on the Wake County Board of Commissioners plans to undo some efforts passed by the old Democratic majority.

A lot is expected to happen later today when the Wake County Commissioners meet for the first time with new members. The Republican Majority will rescind a resolution that expresses “deep concern” over the re-segregation of the Wake County schools.

The county commissioners have financial oversight over the schools.

The anti-re-segregation resolution passed last April.