IOW officials discuss ‘positives’

Published 10:06 am Friday, November 16, 2012


SMITHFIELD—While acknowledging obstacles, particularly in the local economy, Isle of Wight County representatives gave their outlooks at the annual State of the County Breakfast held Wednesday.

“The key to recovery is jobs,” County Commissioner of Revenue Gerald Gwaltney told about 100 people attending the event at Trinity United Methodist Church in Smithfield.

Other factors include generating increased state income taxes and sales taxes. Further, “new companies will provide jobs and increase consumer spending,” said Gwaltney.

He expects that 95 homes will be built this year; last year there were 94.

“Real estate is slow to turn around,” Gwaltney said.

He warned that progress could be undone by the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

That’s the term being used to describe what will occur when tax cuts expire at the end of the year at the same time that spending cuts go into effect, as well new taxes starting for President Barack Obama’s health care law.

“We’ve still got a little way to go,” said School Superintendent Katrise Perera about county schools’ progress toward excellence.

Perea noted that:

n All nine schools met Virginia accreditation standards

n The district’s overall Standards of Learning pass rates met or surpassed state averages

n Students scored 23 points above the state average on SAT tests and 42 points higher than the national average on the college-entrance exam.

n Had an 87 percent on-time graduation rate

n Exceeded $4 million in scholarship awards

The superintendent also emphasized the new iPad program that began this year for the Smithfield and Windsor high schools. The school board agreed to spend $446,000 annually for three years to lease 2,000 of the computer tablets for students and teachers.

While the cost is $60 per regular textbook, the digital ones only cost $15.

Windsor High School senior Logan Hasty said she finds the iPads to be a big help in her studies.

“The county has had a number of challenges, and also is blessed with successes,” said Board Supervisor Al Casteen.

He cited the repurposing of International Paper, which resulted in 200 new jobs, and addition of ST Tissue at the IP mill site as well as “a strong success” in tourism.