The Ides of March have sometimes been unfortunate days for short-sighted men in power.
Can Watauga County Afford Its Debt
Yes, according to Commissioner Jim Deal. The large fund balance that the previous Commission built up, while cutting the county budgets for the last three years, is more than enough to handle the "debt service payment" for the next three years, at which time interest payments will drop substantially because one large loan will be paid off.
The Crisis in Education Spending
The unkindest cuts will come from Raleigh, where the Republican dominated General Assembly promises to slash education spending at all levels in the state. Anticipating those cuts, and still reeling from $3 million in cuts over the last couple of years, the Watauga County School Board is asking the County Commission for an additional $1 million for next year. Commissioner Deal's argument is that the projected $1.9 per annum that might have been realized from the additional quarter-cent in sales tax (now bollixed) would have been available to honor the schools' request and thus protect teaching jobs.
The Eloquence of the Young
A 7th grader from Mabel Elementary School spoke last night, defending the schools and praising her teachers, in a concise, clear, and reasonable short speech which demonstrated quite nicely the outstanding effectiveness of our educational system.
The Eloquence of the Not-So-Young
A parent called Watauga's teachers "our anchors in a time of storm."
Another referred to teachers as the heroes of our culture (albeit unrecognized most of the time and underpaid all of the time).
More than one speaker at the public hearing pointed out the abyssmal fact that North Carolina ranks very near the bottom of 50 states in total education funding and teacher pay.
One school employee made a compelling argument that schools are not businesses and that anyone claiming that schools should be run like businesses is not in touch with the reality of what it means to accept every child that comes through the door, no matter his or her preparation, background, and economic condition.
The PTA president at one of our elementary schools commented that she thought that many people in our community "are freaking out" about job losses and that partisan party politics (like the near-fatal allergy to any taxes paid for the common good) needed to be put aside.
A parent of two children attending Hardin-Park Elementary correctly pointed out that there is no fat in the education budget to cut.
Jim Deal's Future Plans
One teacher who took the podium said to Commissioner Deal that she had written his name down to remember it and that she would be voting for him in the next election. Commissioner Deal shook his head "no" very vigorously. Indicating that he will not be running again.