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News State / Region

The state continues to be on hold in the wait for Governor Pat McCrory to sign North Carolina’s new budget plan. After weeks of back and forth and negotiations over portions of how to fund services throughout the state, the House and the Senate have agreed on a $21.1 billion spending plan that is just awaiting the governor’s signature before taking effect.

The budget taps into the state’s savings plan for a total of $620 million as well as cuts into the reserve funds to ensure that the $21.1 billion budget is fully funded. A new salary schedule for public educators was one of the points of contention for the General Assembly. The final budget identifies a seven percent raise across the board for North Carolina teachers – a $282 million increase in teacher pay in the state. Other school-based administrators will receive a roughly $800 raise and central office personnel and other noncertified staff will receive $500.

Other state employees can expect to see a $1,000 pay raise, and five additional vacation days. In addition to teacher pay, the state plans to spend $42 million to reduce class sizes in kindergarten classrooms to 18 children per teacher as well as 17 students per teacher in first grade, which calls for an increase of about 760 positions.

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Keeping to his original campaign promise of staying connected to his 17 county district, Congressman Mark Meadows took time last week to address concerns plaguing residents of Western North Carolina.

During his freshman stint in Congress, Meadows has worked to make a name for himself introducing various bills that would affect the national political landscape, such as the Federal Records Accountability Act of 2014 calling for an improvement of deferral record keeping, as well as focusing on endeavors that can make a difference right here at home such as The Great Smoky Mountain National Park Agreement Act of 2013 that calls for Congress to release funds to Swain County for improvements and completion for the "Road to Nowhere."

“We have been busy just trying to make a difference and work for the people of our district,” said Congressman Meadows last Thursday. “We are looking forward to getting the opportunity to be back in the district this fall and hope to re-connect with voters across Western North Carolina.”

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Ayusa International, a non-profit organization that for 31 years has promoted global learning and leadership through high school student cultural exchanges and leadership programs, is launching its annual search for families in North Carolina interested in hosting international students for the 2014-2015 school year.

Ayusa is looking for North Carolina host families throughout the entire state, and specifically in and around Macon, Jackson, Swain, Clay, Graham, Cherokee, Haywood, and Buncombe counties.

Anne Raybon, along with her husband Paul is hosting Khan from Vietnam.

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Recently it was announced that the debt North Carolina owed to the federal government to pay unemployment benefits had dropped from nearly $2.6 billion to $980 million. Now, the Division of Employment Security says they are hoping to pay that debt off early, perhaps as soon as August 2015. Initially it was estimated the debt would be paid off by November 2015.

“The quicker this debt is paid off, the quicker we can lower the taxes and level the playing field for North Carolina employers,” said Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary of Employment Security Dale Folwell.

Since 2011, North Carolina has had to pay interest on this debt. With a projected interest payment of $37 million on September 30 of this year, North Carolina’s employers will have paid nearly $262 million in interest payments alone over the past four years.

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