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While thanking county commissioners for fully funding county public schools in the current fiscal year, one local teacher made the case Monday night for more money for schools and teachers.

In the public comment period Monday night, teacher Mary Davis said in the 25 years she’s worked for Henderson County Public Schools, she’s never seen morale as low as it’s been recently.

She blamed “legislative changes” from Raleigh that took away pay incentives for advanced degrees, removed caps on class sizes and reduced funding for teacher assistants.

“And then also there have been changes toward us possibly going toward merit-based pay,” Davis said. “Which has been perplexing for most of us, since we feel like all teachers deserve a raise, not just some teachers.”

But Davis also praised commissioners for fully funding the schools’ budget request last year and for providing Christmas supplements. For some teachers, she said, the supplement is the difference between providing their families with a great Christmas or going deeply in debt.

“We were so happy,” Davis said. “And I puzzled at my school, why are we so happy to receive something we get twice a year? And it occurred to me that it was because morale was so low. It was almost as if we didn’t expect it.”

John Dockendorf, a Flat Rock summer camp owner, praised the board for being “good stewards of our tax dollars. It’s nice to live in a community where you feel your money isn’t being wasted and spent wisely.”

However, Dockendorf said he’d rather have commissioners plow the “results of your good management” back into education instead of providing him with a tax cut large enough “to spend on a couple of nice dinners with my wife.” Commissioners have all expressed support for a 1.36-cent cut in the property tax rate for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

While acknowledging “the state is the problem” and commissioners have been supportive of education, Dockendorf said the county lags behind the national average in the percentage of tax revenues it feeds to local schools.

He suggested commissioners boost local supplements to attract and retain the best teachers and provide enough money so local schools can offer more in the areas of outdoor education and foreign languages.

“Again, why give money back (in the form of tax cuts) when our schools have a lot of work to do?” Dockendorf said. “Get foreign languages back into our curriculum. The fact that my kids in a global economy have to wait until ninth grade to learn a language when in Spartanburg (S.C.) they’re learning Chinese, it doesn’t work.”

While the county’s summer camps generate millions teaching outdoor knowledge, he said, local kids only get “half a day in 5th grade” to learn the same skills. Dockendorf said one of his children will not get a single field trip in three years at Hendersonville Middle .

"So while our teachers and our administrators are doing an incredible job, and they’re creating magic out of essentially nothing, you can have my tax cut,” he said. “But please, I would consider using it for the schools instead of a little bit of trickle down.”

A 2011 economic impact study showed 18 camps here generated $120 million for Henderson County, said Green River resident Holly Robinson. Eight of those 18 camps are in the Green River area, she said, yet the community still doesn’t have its own park after eight years of planning.

“I would just encourage you to dig deep, find funds (and) make it happen,” Robinson said. “When I look at Flat Rock, in less than 18 months, they’ve gone from acquisition to where they’re already doing construction. And I’d just hope you feel some impetus to try and make this happen for us.”

Green River resident Debra Stierwalt thanked commissioners for the support they’ve shown Tuxedo Park, including purchasing and demolishing the old Tuxedo Mill and helping community members write a state grant for park development. She asked the board to consider “keeping us in your budget for next year.”

In other business, commissioners asked staff to poll the public about which design they’d favor for a new county flag. The board agreed pursing an official county flag is worthwhile, since the old one has fallen into obscurity and lacks a distinct symbol.

County Manager Steve Wyatt said Public Information Officer Christina Hallingse will put several designs online for citizens to vote on, with the option to suggest other possibilities, and bring back the results in March for the board to consider.