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Local government watchdog Monroe Miller is well known to many in county government circles; he attends most Haywood County Board of Commissioners meetings and publishes his opinions — usually meticulously researched — on his blog, Haywood County Toeprints. 

In a party-line vote that came after a lengthy and impassioned public hearing, the Jackson County Commissioners voted Jan. 29 to merge the county’s health and social services departments into a single consolidated human services agency. 

The Jackson County Board of Elections’ attempt to exert a new level of independence from the county commissioners resulted in an hour-long — and, at times, contentious — meeting between the two boards July 11.

By Kurt J. Volker • Contributing Writer

Following a somewhat contentious debate leading up to final budget approval, Macon County Commissioners last week approved a $49.6 million spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017, with no hike in property taxes. That rate will remain 34.9 cents per $100 of property valuation.

With an eye to improving student performance and employee retention, Jackson County Public Schools has upped its budget ask to the Jackson County Commissioners — by 25 percent over the allocation given the past seven years.

A key piece of land bordering Panthertown Valley Backcountry Area will be conserved following a pledge from the Jackson County Commissioners to cover any gap between fundraising dollars and land price that still exists by the April 21 closing date. 

Haywood County Commissioners are locked in an increasingly bitter power struggle with elected Tax Collector Mike Matthews over his job performance and work habits, and there doesn’t appear to be any easy resolution to the festering dispute.

• Unfair collection practices in tax collector’s office?
• Comparing tax collections under Francis, Matthews
• Public comment session at next commission meeting

Matthews, a Republican who has been a lightning rod of controversy since taking office in December 2014, is the only elected tax collector in North Carolina. 

The next meeting of the Haywood County Board of Commissioners will be held at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20, inside the Historic Courtroom of the Haywood County Courthouse, in Waynesville.

A renewed effort to increase Haywood County’s room occupancy tax from 4 to 6 percent has already run into almost as much opposition as it has in previous years, calling into question its chances of passage in the state legislature. 

Harry S. Truman’s Secretary of State Dean Acheson said upon his return to private life, “I will undoubtedly have to seek what is happily known as gainful employment, which I am glad to say does not describe holding public office.”

To serve, Haywood Commissioners leave money on the table
Carrying commissioner duties a juggling act in Jackson
Macon commissioners not there for money
Swain commissioners give little thought to salary
Cherokee council makes more than state reps, less than congressmen

While holding public office in the United States isn’t usually all pain, it is usually no gain. American culture has long held disdain for those who enrich themselves by suckling at the public teat, and a Smoky Mountain News investigation proves that — at least locally — the salary and benefits offered to county commissioners in Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties aren’t making any of them rich.

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