Professors struggle with increased class sizes

fr wcuclassesWhile Western Carolina University’s budgets have been shrinking in recent years, its class sizes have been growing.

Nonprofits getting creative for funds

fr nonprofitfundraisingFrom charity golf tournaments to bluegrass concerts to spare change jars, nonprofits lending a helping hand with heating costs for the needy use a variety of means to get people to pitch in for the cause.

Struggle to afford heating costs hits new ­high

coverIt looked like any wood yard, piles of tree trunks in various stages of processing: long logs still bearing their bark, shorter stacks cut into rounds and neatly split triangles of firewood ready to be shoveled into a piping stove.

But to Richard Reeves, the woodlot at an abandoned factory site in Waynesville, is ground zero in the battle to fight winter’s impending cold.

Tribe tightens the financial spigot for Sequoyah National

Sequoyah National Golf Course, a signature course built and operated by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, is slowly being weaned from tribal subsidies that have helped prop up its operations since it opened several years ago.

This month, tribal council voted not to extend a $500,000 line of credit Sequoyah golf course has through the tribe to help cover budget shortfalls and emergency expenses — symbolizing tribal leaders’ sincerity in seeing the course become self-sufficient.

Ryan Ott, director of golf at Sequoyah National Golf Course, asked tribal council earlier this month to extend the course’s line of credit through fiscal year 2015. The line of credit was scheduled to expire in the fall of 2013.

“It is strictly there for, in case of emergencies,” Ott told the council. In the past, it has been used to pay for utilities or paychecks when cash flow was strained, Ott said.

The line of credit was originally setup to cover Sequoyah National’s budget shortfalls, but as it moves closer to profitability, the credit became a fall back for emergencies. The golf course is still not breaking even, however.

“We are getting closer though,” Ott said.

In addition to the line of credit, the tribe gives the golf course an annual contribution to help keep it afloat. Last year, the amount was $1.2 million.

The course was built both to flesh out Cherokee’s tourism offerings and to provide tribal members with a form of recreation that was lacking.

Last year, tribal council members said they could not justify subsidizing the golf course for too much longer when other operations were forced to take budget cuts. Voting not to extend the expiration date on the line of credit shows tribal leaders intend to stick to their guns and start cutting off financial support for the course.

“After having the budget season that we’ve had, I don’t feel like we can support this,” Tribal Council Member B. Ensley said at the meeting earlier this month.

Without the line of credit, if an emergency arose, tribal council would have to vote to allocate additional money to the golf course.

“If they come to the tribe, the tribe is going to have to find money somewhere,” said Vice Chief Larry Blythe. The line of credit allowed the course to have access to emergency money without coming to tribal council first.

About this time last year, Ott said that the golf course was still about five years away from breaking even. In addition to the start-up costs associated with building the course, maintaining the luscious golf course year-round takes quite a bit of green.

Golf is all about the experience — skimping could cause a course to lose business. In late July, the golf course began selling beer, which has helped business.

“It’s definitely an experience enhancer,” Ott said.

Drinking alcohol is a common activity for recreational golfers. Other golf courses in Western North Carolina sell alcohol somewhere on the country club’s premises or allow people to bring alcohol onto the course with them.

In addition to adding alcohol sales, Principal Chief Michell Hicks in August made first mention of the possibility of building housing around Sequoyah National. Typically, golf courses are part of a larger business, such as a resort or real estate development. Profits made from home sales or room rentals are used to cover the costs associated with upkeep of the course itself.

Bryson City federal court site could be on the chopping block

fr fedcourthouseAlthough it has been spared for now, federal belt tightening could eventually lead the government to close its federal court site in Bryson City, which serves as the only one west of Asheville.

Cost savings prompt Swain to outsource inmate health care

Swain County is outsourcing medical care for inmates at the county jail to an independent firm that specializes in the niche field of health care for prisoners, and move the county hopes could save several thousand dollars a year.

The county currently spends between $105,000 and $150,000 on health care for its inmates each year. The new contract with Southern Health Partners could mean a savings of $20,000 annually.

Where state candidates stand on preschool for low-income children

The fate of state-subsidized preschool for at-risk, low-income 4-year-olds rests in the hands of the next General Assembly. The state currently does not provide enough funding to serve the estimated 67,000 children who meet the definition of at-risk.

This year, a 20 percent budget cut to NC Pre-K (formerly known as More at Four) further reduced capacity of the program — which currently serves only 26,000 children — and has lengthened waiting lists.

Fate of early childhood programs could rest with next legislature

coverArmed with a stack of folded construction paper, Charlotte Rogers ushered a four-year-old child to sit down at a pint-sized writing desk, take up a pencil and scratch out the words “I love you” in crooked letters on the inside.

State sticks counties with surprise election tab

fr electionmoneyCounties in North Carolina are being forced to shoulder the burden of electronic voting machines alone after the General Assembly turned down federal aid that would have greatly offset the costs.

Maggie cuts employee benefits, lowers its tax rate

Maggie Valley’s mayor and Board of Alderman voted quickly Monday to cut the tax rate by three cents and approve an amended version of the town’s budget — even though one alderman said she was not privy to the last minute budget changes.

Smokey Mountain News Logo
SUPPORT THE SMOKY MOUNTAIN NEWS AND
INDEPENDENT, AWARD-WINNING JOURNALISM
Go to top
Payment Information

/

At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.