Sunday, May 17, 2009

Week in Review 5/11/09 - 5/16/09

What a very busy but productive week!

The week started off bright and early Monday morning with the Town of Cary’s Climate for Student Success Education Forum. We invited elected officials, community leaders, and parents from all over Wake County to hear from Elaine McEwan, bestselling author of 10 Traits of Highly Effective Schools and Amy Holcomb, Talent Director of Guilford County Schools. EVERY municipality in Wake County was represented….except Raleigh. Go figure.

Elaine spoke about the distinguishing qualities and unique characteristics of schools that help ALL students make gains in academic performance. Amy spoke about Guilford County’s Mission Possible Program – a comprehensive teacher incentive program that recruits highly skilled teachers to teach in high needs schools and rewards them financially based on student success. The better the students do – the more the teachers get paid. Pay for performance, what a concept huh?

Afterwards elected officials and parents were given an opportunity to address our guests and ask questions. The majority of questions pertained to Guilford County’s Mission Possible program (folks were obviously impressed and wanted to hear more) and of course reassignment. Parents asked our guest’s opinion regarding busing for diversity. Amy said it best. “You can either put your money into buses, transportation and fuel, or you can put your money into your people. We chose to put our money into our people so our children could go to their neighborhood school.” After seeing the performance gains of their high needs schools I say they made a wise decision.

Tuesday evening could held our first of what I am sure is to be many budget worksessions. Although considering the town has no money, I can’t imagine the budget process taking but too long. Anyways, Town Manager Ben Shivar and staff presented the budget to council and we conducted a general review of the budget. More in depth worksessions will follow. This year is going to be tight. But like everyone else we have to tighten our belts and focus on essentials to get through the slumping economy. The council is committed to upholding the high levels of service our citizens expect without raising taxes.

Some highlights include:

The proposed FY2010 budget is 25% LOWER than FY2209’s

NO TAX INCREASE. Cary will continue to have the lowest tax rate in the county at 33 cents.

60% reduction in the capital improvement budget.

Over $3 million reduction in General Fund Expansion reductions.

24 open town staff positions will not be filled.

Some lowlights include:

The downtown streetscape project may be postponed or modified.

No sidewalk constructions in FY2010

An 8% increase in water rates. The primary driver for this is the new Western Wake Water Reclamation Facility and reduced revenues due to low/no new development and conservation. The last one really stinks. Our citizens work really hard and make sacrifices to conserve water – the town therefore doesn’t sell as much water as anticipated resulting in a rate increase.

The Council and staff met with Chatham County Commissioners and their staff this week to discuss a number of outstanding issues pertaining to the Chatham County/Cary Joint Land Use Plan and annexation. I was pleased that the meeting went well and i believe that we can work through our differences towards an agreement that benefits both Chatham County and Cary.

On Thursday my wife and I attended the Cary Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Awards Banquet at Embassy Suites in Cary. Our business, Frantz Automotive, was honored to be named the Cary Chamber’s Small Business of the Year last year. This year’s Small Business of the Year Award winner is Rockett Interactive. Other award winners included the Eye Care Center at Barnes & Noble Plaza, Kniffen Wealth Management, Rush Hour Kartingand the Carying Place. The Entrepreneurial Award in Education went to Cary High School. Congratulations to all of this year’s winners and special thanks to the Cary Chamber for supporting and recognizing Cary’s small businesses.

Thursday evening was our council meeting. I had the honor of presenting a proclamation designating May 2, 2009 as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. This was particularly meaningful to me as I spent 3 days in the hospital back in 2001 as the result of a motorcycle accident. I had a collapsed lung, 4 broken ribs and broken shoulder. While I am thankful I am alive to talk about it, I am also thankful I was wearing a full face helmet. If you saw the helmet (which I keep near my bike to remind me of what could have been) you’d better understand. I took the helmet to the council meeting to show folks the importance of appropriate safety gear.

Council also agreed to change the land use plan of 13 acres in the west Cary area from low density residential to medium density residential. The majority of council found this appropriate due to the high density bordering the property to the north, and the low density bordering the property to the south. It provided a good transition. Council also agreed to hire an environmental manager contingent on receiving federal grant funds to cover the cost associated with this position.

I also spent a great deal of time this week responding to citizen emails and phone calls regarding the proposal from Triangle Aquatics Center to the town to purchase, the proposed town budget, and the proposed automated water meter reading system. Thanks to everyone who took the time to contact either myself or the council with your thoughts and concerns on issues important to you. Government works better when more citizens are involved.

I also wrote a letter to the editor in response to Keung Hui’s opinion piece – oops, I mean report – on Cary’s education forum. I knew the N+O was in the tank for WCPSS but geez…. I’ll post it here once I submit it. Neighborhood schools supporters might find this interesting.

That’s about all for this week. As always, thanks for reading!