At its meeting Tuesday evening, the Wake County school board voted unanimously to give raises to all of its school system employees, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour for all system workers currently making less and awarding raises of some 43 percent to some of its lowest-paid workers. All support staff workers will get raises of at least 5.3 percent and teachers will receive raises under the plan as well. 

The move comes after bus drivers and cafeteria workers staged walkouts in recent weeks. Initially, the raises will be paid for using $38.9 million in reserve funds, including money from state and federal COVID relief, but after the 2021-2022 school year, the district will need to find other sources of funding to maintain the pay raises and to avoid cutting other expenses. 

WRAL reports that county officials say increasing property taxes may necessary to help find more funds for educators and support staff:

Wake County Board of Commissioners Chairman Sig Hutchinson said Wednesday that additional funding would likely come from a property tax increase. That could happen as early as next fall, he said.

Hutchinson said he knows people are already being squeezed by inflation and the effects of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. But he noted that Wake County’s tax rate is low relative to other parts of the state. He wants to keep them low, but adds we could see raises to property taxes as early as next fall if this is the way these wages are funded.

Wake County Schools, like many other school systems across the country, are facing severe staffing shortages in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Wake County schools had vacancy rate of 20.8 percent for child nutrition workers, 19.4 percent for bus drivers, 13 percent for special-education instructional assistants,11.1 percent overall for instructional assistants, and 3 percent for teachers as of November 1, according to a News & Observer report.

The planned raises include 2.5 percent increases retroactive to July 1 for principals, assistant principals, certified staff, instructional support workers, occupational and physical therapists; minimum $15 an hour raises for non-certified staff beginning January 1; starting pay at $16.20 per hour for instructional assistants and bus drivers, up from the starting pay of $11.80 an hour, plus commensurate increases for veteran employees; raises for special-education instructional assistants; bringing all pay in line with the amount of time all employee longevity, and raises to $115 a day for substitute teachers without a teaching license.

Most employees will also receive system and state-budgeted bonuses along with their new base pay in January. 

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle. 

Follow Editor-in-Chief Jane Porter on Twitter or send an email to