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Raleigh budget delays keep CMS teacher out of her new home

CMS elementary school teacher Krista Ricks and her 4-year-old daughter, Caroline, can’t move into their new house until the state passes a budget.
CMS elementary school teacher Krista Ricks and her 4-year-old daughter, Caroline, can’t move into their new house until the state passes a budget.

Krista Ricks, a teacher at Beverly Woods Elementary School, wants North Carolina legislators to know that their foot-dragging on the budget has left her homeless.

It’s not that she’s destitute. She’s working and getting paid.

But until the folks in Raleigh pass a 2015-16 budget, it’s not clear what her salary is. Until her lender can verify her salary, she can’t close on her newly built house, which is finished and waiting for her to move in.

So three weeks into the school year, Ricks and her 4-year-old daughter are living with a friend. Her furniture is in storage and her anxiety is mounting.

“My locked-in interest rate expired and the builder is putting pressure on me for more money while he pays carrying costs on a finished house,” Ricks said in an email. “My dream home that I have planned from concept to reality is on the brink of slipping through my hands, all because the NC legislature cannot pass a budget. I lay awake at night terrified that the builder will pull out and sell my dream home to another buyer.”

By now the budget is 10 weeks late and counting. House and Senate leaders say they hope to vote by the end of next week, but they’ve missed two previous deadlines.

They’ve approved a stopgap budget so government doesn’t shut down. But Ricks’ story is a reminder of how uncertainty about the $22 billion budget sends ripples through public bodies and private lives across North Carolina.

The timing looked good when Ricks signed a contract in February for a new home in the Walnut Creek subdivision, just across the state line in Lancaster, S.C. She sold her Waxhaw home in June and moved in with family in Atlanta. Her closing was set for August, about the time school started and well after the budget should have been in place.

But when it came time to report for work, the crew in Raleigh was nowhere near agreement.

Legislative leaders have said that teachers will get “step raises” based on experience. For Ricks, who has a master’s degree and 15 years’ experience, that means going from $50,842 a year to $55,769. But because there has been no vote, her income remains in question.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools pays a vendor to do income verification. There was no information available Thursday on how many others have hit problems. A district spokeswoman said current salaries shouldn’t be difficult, but anyone needing confirmation of a raise based on the yet-to-be-approved budget may face delays.

State Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Mecklenburg Democrat, has written to Ricks’ lender in hopes of speeding up approval.

“Our delay has put Ms. Ricks in a difficult position through no fault of her own,” he wrote. “Budget talks are progressing rapidly. There is a strong commitment to completing the budget by September 18, if not sooner. I can also state with total certainty that, as a CMS teacher, Ms. Ricks’ salary will continue to be funded by the state irrespective of the result of any budget decisions.”

But that hasn’t helped.

“I don’t think the vast majority of people realize what this lack of budget means to some people,” Ricks wrote. “Perhaps sharing my story will spark some NC citizens to put more pressure on the NC General Assembly to pass the budget.”

Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @anndosshelms