In The News
Sales tax vote dies
The Watauga County Board of Commissioners decided Tuesday that county residents would not vote on a quarter-cent sales tax increase in May as previously expected.
The 3-2 vote to kill the referendum came after a nearly two-hour hearing in which the school system mobilized dozens of teachers, staff and administrators to advocate that the sales tax increase pass and that it go toward education.
The commissioners decided earlier this month to put the tax for a vote May 17, directing that its use would be the retirement of the county's $74 million debt, of which about $63.25 million is from the construction of the new Watauga High School.
Commissioners Nathan Miller, David Blust and Vince Gable voted for rescinding the vote, while Tim Futrelle and Jim Deal voted against.
In discussion before the vote, Deal said that he would support changing the resolution to state that the tax increase, if passed, would go toward debt service and education, but other commissioners vehemently disagreed.
Without the sales tax on the table, the county now must decide whether to tap into the county's fund balance, make cuts or raise property taxes to balance the budget.
North Carolina gains 4,500 jobs in January
North Carolina gained 4,500 non-farm jobs in January, according to statistics released by the state's Employment Security Commission (ESC).
The state's unemployment rate edged up slightly to 9.9 percent during that time period.
"The January data reflected a gain of 4,500 jobs," ESC chairman Lynn R. Holmes said. "In particular, there was an indication of strong growth in the retail sector and positive growth in several sectors over the year. Our local offices continue to offer a variety of services for all of our customers statewide."
Seasonally adjusted total non-farm industry employment, as gathered through the monthly establishment survey, increased to 3,861,400 in January. The largest over-the-month employment increase occurred in trade, transportation and utilities (+11,300). The largest decrease was in construction (-5,100). Over the year, non-farm industry employment has increased by 6,400 jobs.
The number of people employed (seasonally adjusted) remained flat at 4,024,435. The number of people unemployed increased by 3,374 workers to 440,622. Since that time last year, the number of people unemployed has decreased by 78,594, and the number of workers employed is down 2,841. The state unemployment rate in January 2010 was 11.4 percent.
Teachers of the Year announced
The 2011-12 Teachers of the Year have been selected for each of the nine schools in the Watauga County Schools system.
The teachers chosen for this honor include Kim Bentley of Green Valley, Amber Cooper of Valle Crucis, Darcy Grimes of Bethel, Ron Hopper of Watauga High School, Jennifer Lacy of Parkway, Allyson McFalls of Blowing Rock, Tonya McKinney of Mabel, Kelly Roten of Hardin Park, and Laura Young of Cove Creek.
Superintendent Marty Hemric offered his congratulations to all the Teachers of the Year, while also complimenting their colleagues throughout the system.
"I believe that our teachers in the Watauga County Schools are the best in the state," he said. "In such an exceptional workforce, any teacher chosen as the Teacher of the Year at their school is a truly remarkable educator. Our students benefit greatly from their knowledge, their skills, and their exceptional commitment to maximizing the potential of every child in their classroom."
Each school's Teacher of the Year will receive an award of $350 from the school system and is automatically a candidate for Watauga County Schools Teacher of the Year. The person chosen as the WCS Teacher of the Year will receive an additional $350 from the school system.
The WCS Teacher of the Year for 2011-12 will be announced in May after a selection process that includes interviews, unannounced teacher observations in classrooms, and a review of a written statement of teaching philosophy prepared by each candidate. The current WCS Teacher of the Year is English teacher Mary Kent Whitaker of Watauga High School.
NCDOT seeks feedback on future projects
The N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is seeking public input on the proposed final version of the State Transportation Improvement Plan.
This plan lists all the projects that will use federal funds between now and 2016. NCDOT is required by the federal government to have a plan and receive public input on it.
NCDOT invites citizens in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell, Surry, Watauga, Wilkes and Yadkin counties to share their thoughts at a public meeting on Monday, March 21, at the Wilkesboro Civic Center, located at 1241 School St. in Wilkesboro.
The meeting will begin at 4 p.m. with a brief presentation. After a question and answer period, citizens can speak directly with NCDOT staff and submit written comments. This process will be repeated until the meeting ends at 7 p.m.
Citizens can also review the proposed list of projects and comment online at http://www.ncdot.gov/projects/PublicEngagement.html. In addition, they can visit this website to ask questions, request assistance or access additional information.