Thanks for reading Chatham County’s leading news source! Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing to the News + Record – you can do so by clicking here.
PITTSBORO — At last week’s Chatham County Board of Education retreat, district officials revealed that, if class size restrictions in kindergarten through third grade going into place next year were instituted this year, the district would be five teachers short.
Janice Frazier, the district’s assistant superintendent for human resources, was speaking on the topic to the board during its mid-year retreat at the Chatham Park Conference Center. Frazier said the changes, enacted by the N.C. General Assembly in 2017 and revised in 2018, are going to affect the district’s staffing, allotment and space in classrooms and schools.
“We are absolutely working to stay on top of the impact that the new requirements will have,” Frazier said.
The state legislature initially set the standard for average K-3 class sizes to drop from 20 students to around 17 students starting in July 2018. But after outcry from citizens and school officials — many of whom said they wouldn’t be able to afford the new teachers and arts, music and physical education teachers — the legislature passed a bill in 2018 to phase-in the requirements and pledged to add funding for those enhancement positions.
Chatham County Schools Superintendent Derrick Jordan said that “few, if any, educators” would be opposed to smaller class sizes, but recognized the challenges that came with the change. He praised the General Assembly’s pledge for additional funding for the arts, music and PE teachers.
“We’re looking forward to seeing what that will ultimately generate and identify any potential challenges that may subsequently emerge,” Jordan said. “I still think there’s greater opportunities to improve some of this work. I believe the General Assembly is listening with a more open ear than was previously the case.”
Study: Chatham near the top in N.C. in average tax refund, amount owed
A new study shows that Chatham County is near the pinnacle in North Carolina when it comes to the size of the average tax refund.
SmartAsset, a financial technology company, ranked Chatham fourth of North Carolina’s 100 counties in average amount of taxes refunded with $3,126 to 23,060 taxpayers that received refunds.
According to a release, the study divided the total amount of money refunded by the Internal Revenue Service to each county by the number of refunds given out in each county. Hoke County topped the list with $3,240 per taxpayer, followed by Mecklenburg ($3,197) and Moore ($3,144) counties. Robeson, Orange, Harnett, Union, Scotland and Wayne counties rounded out the top five.
Chatham also ranked near the top in average tax owed, finishing fifth with $6,037. Orange County was tops in that list with $6,566, followed by Sampson, Union and Hyde counties, according to SmartAsset.
Walker chosen for three U.S. House committees
U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., has been chosen to serve on the Committees on Education & Labor, Homeland Security and House Administration during the 116th Congress, his office announced Jan. 16.
Walker rejoins the Homeland Security and House Adminis- tration committees and makes his debut in the Education and Labor committee.
“I am thrilled for the opportunity to serve on these committees and what it means for our ability to represent the people of North Carolina with diligence and principle,” Walker said. “The security, education and workforce of Americans are all issues intimately linked to our nation’s future. I look forward to working in these committees to make a lasting difference, promoting and expanding the hope and prosperity of the American dream.”
Walker will serve alongside Reps. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., and Alma Adams, D-N.C., on the Education & Labor committee. Foxx is the committee’s ranking member, the title given to the highest ranked minority party member.
Town of Pittsboro annual audit comes back clean
PITTSBORO — The Town of Pittsboro received a clean audit report last week on its finances for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
Jay Sharpe, an auditor with Rives & Associates, said the town had “no significant deficiencies this year and no material weaknesses.”
“This is the best possible opinion that the town can receive on its financial reports,” Sharpe said. “This is back-to-back years that we did not have any findings on the reports.”
Sharpe’s report indicated that the town has seen significant increases in revenue and fund balance over the last 10 years, including a $2 million jump in fund balance, the town’s “piggy bank.” He said that if the town stopped generating revenue, it could still operate for 383 days, and the town could continue water and sewer operations through its fund for 514 days.
“It shows you have a very healthy cash balance at hand,” Sharpe said. “You’re actually a lot healthier than most in your reserves.”
The audit cost the town $20,000. Each municipality in North Carolina is audited every year by law.
Property appraisers beginning visits for 2021 revaluation
Over the next year to 18 months, property owners in Chatham County will be getting visits from appraisers as part of the county’s next revaluation.
Tax Administrator Jenny Williams announced the initiative in a press release last week, saying the reappraisal is a “key phase” of the revaluation. The process is designed to give property owners the “fair market value,” according to the release, of their property for tax purposes.
“We want people to know that the appraisers will be out and about in the county,” Williams said. “They will be onsite to inspect, take measurements and photograph improvements.”
The county is utilizing Vincent Valuation Appraisers in the process. All appraisers will have a county ID badge, and vehicles will have the county logo as decals. If residents are unsure that someone visiting them is a county-affiliated appraiser, they can call the Tax Appraisal office at 919-542- 8211 or dial 919-545-8476 to verify the appraiser’s identity.
Chatham schools evaluating impact of statewide grading issue
Chatham County Schools is in the midst of dealing with a statewide issue with the software school districts across the state use to calculate grades.
The district sent out a release Friday afternoon indicating that the state Department of Public Instruction had told districts about “an issue in PowerTeacher Pro that can lead to an incorrect calculation of grades.” PowerTeacher Pro is used by all public and charter schools to record grades.
The specific issue, according to the release, is with the rounding function, leading
to possibilities of a student’s grade being slightly higher or lower than the actual grade earned. NCDPI staff, according to the release, told school administrators that nearly all of the state’s public school districts and 59 charter schools could be impacted.
“While this is clearly a statewide issue, one that was beyond our control, it’s imperative that we work collaboratively with state officials to troubleshoot and determine the necessary course of action for any impacted students,” Chatham County Schools Superin- tendent Derrick Jordan said.
The release stated that the district will work under the state’s guidance for next steps, which could include delaying the issuance of report cards. No indication was given as to the complete impact of the software issue.
Awareness event to focus on addition, opioid crisis
The Chatham Community Library is kicking off a series of Community Awareness Events on February 16 with a free forum on addiction and the opioid crisis.
The event, titled “It Started with a Script: Prescription Drug Misuse, Addiction, and the Opioid Crisis,” starts at 1 p.m. in the Holmes Meeting Room at the library. Members of the panel include Chatham County Sheriff Mike Roberson, Chatham County Health Policy Analyst Casey Hilliard, Chatham County resident and documentary filmmaker Zoe Willard and Chatham County resident and addiction expert Dr. Joe Mancini.
According to a release from the county, the program will include an in-depth look at the local impact of “prescription drug misuse, the science of addiction and treatment and recovery.” The documentary “Kids” will be screened and followed with a discussion on the Good Samaritan law, which gives legal protection to people who report overdoses to emergency response personnel.
For more information, contact Rita Van Duinen at 919- 545-8083 or rita.vanduinen@ chathamlibraries.org.
Vaughn crowned as Homecoming Queen at Chatham Charter
Senior Amber Vaughn was named Friday as the 2019 homecoming queen at Chatham Charter School during halftime of a varsity basketball game.
Vaughn edged 13 other contenders to receive the crown, given to her by 2018 queen Farrah Ritter. Vaughn represented the school’s DECA club, an organization of students learning about marketing and business. She is a vice president for the state DECA organization.
The other members of the Homecoming Court included Jasia Palmer (House Tucker), Natalie Robinson (House Nobles), Rylie Jones (House Milholen), Holly Coble (House Joyce), Olivia Bennett (Beta Club), Grace O’Hara (FCA), Hailey Jones (International Club), Taylor Brewer (Freshman Class), Lina Sibum and Merle Kreiss (Sophomore Class), Alizah Simpson and Maddy Wilson (Junior Class) and Ella Randall and Rachel Smith (Senior Class).