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Our roundup of the week's top stories in the Charlotte area and across North Carolina. Sign up here to get it sent straight to your inbox.

Follow The Money: The Week In Review From WFAE

Charlotte skyline
Erin Keever
/
WFAE

Many journalists have read the book and seen the movie "All The President's Men." The tale of the reporting behind the Watergate break-in has long been an inspiration for many to enter the profession, and it contains one of the most classic lines: "Follow the money."

That means, of course, that money is the driving force in our world -- in good and bad and simply mundane ways.

And money was at the root of many of this week's biggest stories. To start, Charlotte's City Manager Marcus Jones revealed his budget for the upcoming year. In a presentation to City Council and reporters, he focused on how the budget did not include a tax hike, but contained higher starting salaries and raises for most employees.

His introductory note mentioned the mayor and City Council would receive raises -- but it wasn't until page 385 of the 422-page budget document that the size of those raises was disclosed. For Mayor Vi Lyles, it will be a 41.5% salary bump; council members will get a 51% salary increase. Jones said those salary increases will bring them in line with Mecklenburg County commissioners.

Speaking of the county and money, County Manager Dena Diorio also revealed her budget this week. The $1.99 billion budget does not raise property taxes but would hold $56 million designated for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in "restricted contingency" until a detailed plan to close racial and ethnic achievement gaps by 2024 is disclosed.

“This is a way to tie funding to accountability,” Diorio said.

In WFAE politics reporter Steve Harrison's weekly Inside Politics newsletter, he took a closer look at Diorio's budget plan for CMS.

For now, of course, our main health focus is on the coronavirus and vaccinating enough people for COVID-19 -- and figuring out what happens if we don't. Charlotte's health care community is bracing for a future in which we never reach herd immunity for the disease. In fact, the county health department is creating a permanent COVID-19 team to manage the disease long-term.

But Gov. Roy Cooper is standing by his declaration that he wants two-thirds of eligible North Carolinians to be at least partially vaccinated before he drops the state's face mask mandate. The vaccination rates in the state have slowed considerably in recent weeks, but he still thinks it's achievable; at last check, about 50% of adults in the state had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot.

Meanwhile, WFAE reporter David Boraks followed the money trail when it comes to taxes and large corporations, and learned that Duke Energy was one of 55 large U.S. companies that paid no federal income taxes last year despite having more than $1 billion in profit. An analysis by a progressive think tank says Duke Energy used lower tax rates and tax incentives to turn what would have been a $176 million income tax bill into a tax credit.

One story blissfully unrelated to money this week -- unless you consider that many of us learned our numbers from Count von Count -- was WFAE reporter Sarah Delia's story on "Street Gang," a local journalist's book about the history of "Sesame Street" that has been made into a documentary that was released Friday.

Sarah's story is a delight, and it's refreshing to hear many of the characters we grew up with on children's TV in the audio version of her story. Check it out.

In the meantime, I'll be watching the documentary on demand to disconnect from all the stories about money.

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Sarah Delia
Street Gang is reaching a new audience with the release of the documentary.

ICYMI: MORE LOCAL NEWS

Foam Along Catawba River May Be Linked To South Carolina Paper Mill

Environmental officials in South Carolina are investigating reports of unnatural foam forming along the Catawba River, and one of the possible causes is a paper mill already under investigation for a foul odor along the North and South Carolina border.

Unable To Teach In NC, Local Woman Leaves Country For 10 Years

DACA recipients in North Carolina can't get professional licenses in some careers, including teaching. This hurdle forced one Charlotte-area woman to make a difficult choice: Be with her family or have a career.

NC Updates School Mask Rules After Union County Officials Complain

North Carolina health and education officials revised the state's COVID-19 rules for schools Wednesday, after Union County school board members complained they were out of step with the governor's orders.

Renovation Coming For Abandoned Building On Independence Boulevard

Charlotte's Varnadore Building is set to get a makeover. While you probably don't recognize the name, you most likely have seen it: an abandoned seven-story, cube-shaped building on Independence Boulevard. Hear the plans in the latest BizWorthy.

Report Highlights Domestic Violence By SC Police

South Carolina consistently ranks high as a state where women are dying from violence committed by men. Victims of violence depend on law enforcement to help them, but what happens when a police officer is the one committing the violence?

Artist's Dream Of Mobile Studio For Kids Will Soon Hit The Road

Charlotte artist Bunny Gregory is turning an old school bus into a mobile art and music studio that she'll take to different neighborhoods to help more children flex their creative skills in their own environments.

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Dashiell Coleman
Charlotte artist Michelle "Bunny" Gregory stands next to the bus she's converting into a mobile studio that will travel around the city to help kids in undeserved communities learn creative skills, including art activities and music.

REBUILDING CHARLOTTE

A national coalition that includes some of North Carolina’s largest school districts says integrating public schools offers hope for equal opportunity. For Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, a student assignment review will provide a chance to try new diversity strategies.

FAQ CITY

If you travel past schools in Charlotte, you’ve seen the giant decorated rocks outside. But why exactly are they there? We find out in the latest episode of the FAQ City podcast.

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Jennifer Lang
A painted rock outside of South Mecklenburg High School.

AMPLIFIER

The musical road has been a winding one for Charlotte's Fred Lee IV. From cutting hair in his father's salon and slinging hot dogs to Scott Avett, to now leading the Southern roots rock band Late Night Special and hosting the annual Shakedown Music Festival featuring regional musicians. Listen to his story in the latest Amplifier.

BEST OF CHARLOTTE TALKS

After nationwide protests last year in response to the death of George Floyd, calls to reform policing in America continue to grow. Still, about 200 Black Americans have been killed by police since Floyd’s death – and the recent killing of Andrew Brown Jr. in Elizabeth City has sparked old tensions. We talked about the future of policing and the potential of police reform.

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