Wednesday, March 16, 2011

More Notes from 3/15/11

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.


Deborah Greene said...

Not so fast. Deal's regime was not actually responsible for the fund balance. I appeared before the BOC in 2005 regarding the fund balance left behind by the Republicans. I was arguing that Deal didn't need to raise our property taxes. However, he raised them by 4.5 cents anyway. Then he started spending the fund balance and replacing the funds with his tax. And, when his spending began to catch up with him, he began to leverage the fund for debt approval. My argument then and my argument now is the same: The Republicans are building it up to higher than needed levels and the Democrats are burying us in debt with it and spending and raising taxes the same time.

Deborah Greene said...

The commissioners snacked on cheese during the sales tax hearing. How appropriate; the Republican commissioners were like mice caught in a trap; a trap laid by Commissioner Deal and the School Board. Deal, et al turned the hearing into an education budget hearing. However, the other budget departments (Administration, Maintenance, Sheriff, DSS, Fire, etc.) didn’t get the MEMO. While principals, teachers, counselors, etc. were allowed a public forum to fight for their jobs; county maintenance workers, administrative assistants, clerks, etc. were not afforded the same opportunity. Commissioner Deal set the stage with his opening remarks: “I agree with a sales tax referendum if it is for education.” And, the education crowd said AMEN!
The Commissioners decided to rescind the referendum contingency plan because they had received new county financial information since originally putting the plan into place: 1) While they knew they had over $16.8 million in the general fund’s “unreserved fund balance” as of 6/30/2010, the finance director had been unable to tell them how much of the fund was currently remaining. The commissioners then discovered only $1 million had been used. And, they also asked about the $3.6 million in the capital reserve “unreserved fund balance” and discovered it was available for budgeting capital project needs. 2) They contacted State Senator Soucek and House Representative Jordan to discuss the State mandates as threatened by Gov. Perdue; and, were told that they were working on cuts elsewhere and were aware that pushing the problem down the line (Gov. Perdue’s plan) wasn’t a good plan. Despite the new findings, Commissioner Deal fought hard for the sales tax. What started with an OFFER to agree to a referendum if debt was replaced with education, turned into a PLEA for a referendum for whatever reason. Deal said: “It doesn’t matter what reason you use; it’s all one POT OF MONEY and we can spend it however we want. If you want to spend it on debt, then that will free up money we can spend in other areas.”
We learned in August 2010 that resolutions are NOT BINDING. We also learned that the law will not allow earmarking or restriction of the funds for any particular purpose. However, Commissioner Deal was promising to use it for a recreation center. And, now in desperation, he tells the truth. And, the truth will set you free!

Anonymous said...

I was thinking that if Deal had gotten his way last august and passed the sales tax then, he would have borrowed more money for a rec center and we wouldnt even have the option of increasing the sales tax again.

would that mean that 70 teachers would have to be laid off? that seems to be what he is saying. if you don't pass this referendum we may have to lay off 7o teachers

i dont know who to believe anymore

Anonymous said...

If what you say is true, Deborah, then the commissioners (1) are too dumb to hold this office. Why didn't they check the numbers before voting to hold a referendum, and (2) if they had discovered all this money they didn't know they had and had decided they didn't need a tax referendum anyway, then why didn't they cancel the hearing instead of wasting everyone's time? Or why didn't they announce at the top of the hearing they had discovered they didn't need the extra money anyway.

Nope. I'm not buying this newest spin at all. What a load of crap.

Anne said...

So Deborah, are you saying all that stuff in the Republican Party column in the newspaper the other day was just garbage?

Anonymous said...

Yes, Anne, because there is a small bipartisan group who control this county, and some in both the Democrat and Republican associations do not like independent people who speak for the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

What I want to know is why we have a debt problem? When the idea of the new school at the new location was forced on the public, we were told not to worry that the costs would be covered through various means without the need to raise taxes. Now, we are in debt and don't know how to fix it.

Anonymous said...

We have a beautiful new school that will benefit the children of our community for decades to come and a county system than ranks high among NC schools in performance, although NC ain't breaking any educational records globally. Shut up and pay a pittance more for it so we don't grow more idiots in our mountain fertility.
Local idiots that profess to hate government while accepting farm subsidies year-in-and-year-out that are greater annually than most hard working Wataugan's yearly income.

Anonymous said...

if you don't like farm subsidies, talk to your representatives and get them changed or eliminated. don't just attack those who qualify for a program provided by the government.

do you also oppose those that qualify for tax credits for education? for energy efficiency? alternative fuels? or is it just farmers you complain about?

Richard Tidyman said...

I really wish folks could be civil and avoid the insulting statements. One can be persuasive, articulate, concise and respectful. One's rudeness, and then hiding behind anonymity reduces, at least for me, the person's credibility and persuasiveness.

independant said...

i agree with richard tidyman about the cheap shots and insults.

Maybe our moderator could set an example? Almost every "topic" posted here is an attack on someone.

Today's version he refers to House Republicans as "those bastards"

Way to set the tone!

Anonymous said...

Oh please, independent. Get off your high horse and travel to the conservative blog and tongue lash them, too. I'm having a hard time trying to figure out why our teachers (here and nationwide) are "villians". It's a crying shame.

Anonymous said...

Referring to the Republican state legislators as "bastards" is not a cheap shot. It's a fact.

independant said...

Blogger Richard Tidyman said...

I really wish folks could be civil and avoid the insulting statements. One can be persuasive, articulate, concise and respectful. One's rudeness, and then hiding behind anonymity reduces, at least for me, the person's credibility and persuasiveness.

5:33 AM

Thanks you two nonnys for illustrating his point!

Deborah Greene said...

I can't speak for the Republican Party. I registered Unaffiliated because I didn't see that the Republican Party (local leadership) was able to commit to the basic standards of the party. I have heard from many Republicans that didn't appreciate the letter published in the name of the Republican Party. It seems that the local leadership didn't consult its base or the commissioners. It is MY OPINION that the Commissioner Deal's Republican friends (the ones he talks about so much; remember he even gave us some of their names during the infamous press conference last August)pulling the strings. Call it apathy or call it reality; the time came for me to separate myself from dysfunction.