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Clemmons Council passes resolution concerning sales tax for teachers

By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

The Clemmons Village Council approved a resolution in Monday night’s meeting “concerning” — instead of being in “support” of — the proposed Forsyth County additional quarter-cent sales tax for teacher pay that is on the March 3 primary ballot.

In its previous meeting, the council deliberated on some of the wording in the original resolution that was presented, including a phrase that “urges all residents to vote FOR our teachers,” leading to a revised resolution that was presented with changes that were approved by a 3-1 margin.

The final paragraph that was approved reads: “Now, therefore be it resolved that the Village of Clemmons Council wishes to provide some information from the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School system indicating the need for increasing the supplements paid to teachers in Forsyth County. Our goal is to enable our citizens to make a more informed choice when they vote. As it is in any matter, the responsibility is on the voters themselves to make their own decision based on individual research.”

Councilwoman Mary Cameron, who made the motion in support of the amended version, said:

“I like the wording of this proposal much better. I think this accurately reflects what this council is trying to say, which is we got the information from the county, and now it’s up to our citizens to decide what they want to do with that information.”

Council members Mike Rogers and Chris Wrights also voted in favor with councilwoman Michelle Barson voting against. Councilman Scott Binkley, who is a teacher in the Forsyth County system, was recused from the discussion.

Barson, who made the motion for the original resolution in the Feb. 10 meeting, said that she thought the revised resolution approved in Monday night’s meeting is “fairly empty.”

The original final paragraph on the resolution that was ultimately changed read: “Now, therefore be it resolved that the Village of Clemmons Council supports the proposed quarter-cent sales tax for teacher supplemental compensation and urges all residents to vote FOR our teachers on the March 3, 2020 ballot.”

Barson said she thought the council’s role was to understand and advise on how these issues might impact the community and take a position on it.

“It was an endorsement of it, not telling them (how to vote),” she said, adding that Forsyth County Schools are “in our municipality and our jurisdiction. Is this something that you think would be good for our community or not? I think taking a position is the wise decision to make.”

Cameron said, “This is not a stand against teachers at all. As a council person, I don’t think it’s proper for one elected body to tell another elected body what to do with their taxation.”

Another change in the wording for the new resolution at the end of the original “Whereas, Passage of the quarter-cent sales tax will result in a proposed one-cent decrease in real estate and personal property” was adding “while failure to do so may result in a 3½-cent property tax increase for all Forsyth County residents.”

The heading of “Resolution concerning the proposed Forsyth County additional quarter-cent sales tax for teacher pay” replaces the original “Resolution of support for Forsyth County to add quarter-cent sales tax for teacher pay.”

It was the third straight meeting the resolution has been addressed, with Ted Kaplan, a Forsyth County commissioner, speaking at the previous two meetings on the importance of increasing teacher supplements to make the county more competitive with the state’s largest urban areas.

The proposed tax would generate an estimated $13.5 million for the first year. The increase will range from $2,000 to $3,000 more per teacher per year and lower the county property tax rate by one cent.

In another item on the agenda in Monday night’s meeting, Village Manager Scott Buffkin gave an update on the new library project, saying the village’s portion of the project is “fairly well complete.”

Buffkin said that Clemmons is waiting for Duke Energy to install the street lights, and the other part that will need to be finalized is the conversion of the erosion control pond to a permanent stormwater control device.

Cameron recently met with Damon Sanders-Pratt, deputy county manager, about the long-delayed project, and she said that “we’re now talking about January for library completion because of all the rain we’ve had.”

Cameron added that as part of her conversation, she asked about the two different pergolas in the back of the building that were In the original design and learned that one was not doable because it would have to be put up when the building is going up. The other one could be possible if money is left over as the project is completed.

“That’s very encouraging anyway,” she said, mentioning that Sanders-Pratt said that the project is 4 percent complete at this time. “If we all get out and do our rain dance so the rain will stop…”

Buffkin added, “They do have the webcam set up to the county library website. You can go to the Clemmons branch, you can click it and watch the inactivity most days.”

In other highlights from Monday night’s meeting, the council:

• Approved a major subdivision preliminary site plan review for Greenfield Park by Penny Engineering for nine residential lots on 4.1 acres and zoned RS-15 on Greenfield Way Drive, which is part of an existing development.

• Approved a preliminary site plan review for Whiteheart Construction for property located at 3843 Clemmons Road consisting of 0.739 acres and zoned LO-S (office) for an addition to a site that was developed in 1991.

• Approved a capital project ordinance amendment for the U.S. 158 Sidewalk and Tanglewood Greenway to an amended project budget for a “worst-case scenario” of $2,110,400 (STDPA Grant) and transfers from the General Fund ($1,569,100) for a total of $3,679,500.

• Approved a resolution to give the village manager authority for blanket resolutions for street dedications.

• Heard from Shannon Ford in the marketing/communications report that the Clemmons Lip Sync Battle will be at 7 p.m. on  Friday, March 6, at Southwest Elementary School and that the Stormwater Department is working on events involving Forsyth Creek Week, including Family Fishing Fun on Saturday, March 21, at the Village Point Greenway where the kids can fish in the lake.

• Approved the unsealing of closed session minutes from Sept. 25, 2017, to Oct. 14, 2019.

• Heard from Mayor John Wait, who read a resolution proclaiming March 2020 as the 18th annual March for Meals Month regarding the importance of the Meals on Wheels program.