Friday, November 18, 2011

State Rep. Barbara Bailey's Coffee Talk for Stanwood Residents

Friday afternoon I and about a dozen other Stanwood Residents went to the Scandia Cafe on Rt. 532.   There we listened to 10th District State Representative Barbara Bailey (pictured far right) announce the need for the State Legislature to be called back into session this November to balance the budget.  The focus was on the trends in State revenue and spending since the beginning of the last decade.   Revenue and spending both increased but were balanced until  2008 when spending far outpaced revenue.  Rep. Bailey saw the revenue bubble in home construction coming but could not convince her colleagues on the House Ways and Means committee that the bubble would burst and that the State would not be able to  sustain all the new programs that had been introduced into the budget.   Sounds like she had a "Cassandra" predicament.  She was right.

Like Republicans nationwide,  Rep. Bailey proposed limiting taxes, cutting back on spending and streamlining regulation.    Generally,  I like to know how new programs are going to be funded and who will be adversely affected by budget cuts.  I have found regulations can be a good or bad idea.  So I can't respond to general statements about them.

  Rep. Bailey believes there could be changes in how some programs are structured that would save money without cutting services.  I asked for examples.  She mentioned early childhood education and health care.  She also felt that cuts should be more weighted towards service administrations rather than service staff  as cuts have been in the past.   We did not have time to go into more detail but I hope to read more about these ideas.  So I signed up on her email list.

After her presentation, much of the discussion was about how Democrats and Republican are working together.   While there are basic differences between the parties,  she observed that individual votes do not follow strict party lines.  As examples she points to her own appointments to important subcommittees such as Pensions and Veterans' Affairs - even though as a Republican she is in the minority.

Another  interest among residents was the interface between our education system and employment in the State.   Just as Boeing is now being awarded major contracts to build new planes,  many of their top engineers will be retiring.  The company worries about there being the educated work force they need here.  One gentleman wanted to know how much will taxpayers be required to help Boeing.   I expect that local economists can figure out how much it would cost to expand the engineering departments of our Universities and the effect that would have on the State budget if graduates were hired by Boeing.   I wonder whether we will have  enough high school grads ready for the challenges of Science education.  When I looked at State math scores they were not impressive.  I warned the others at the coffee talk that there were only two of us from WA State when I was taking graduate Statistics at the Univ. of WA.  About half the class was from China.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

How we finance the Stanwood Camano School District

 On this cold rainy Saturday,  members and guests attended the monthly meeting of our local Democratic Party at the Viking to hear representatives of the Stanwood Camano School District - Ellen Hiatt, a parent on the school’s levy committee, Superintendent Jean Shumate and finance director Gary Platt   - outline the school district's financial needs and current funding

The State provides 65% of the funding and the Federal Government 10%.  In addition to local fees a local Levy pays 23%. This levy will expire in December 2011.  Voters are being asked to renew the levy by ballot in late January to be returned by Feb. 14th.  Voting in favor of the levy will provide our schools with student bus transportation, extra help for struggling students.  advanced placement classes , breakfast and lunch programs, utilities and building maintenance.   To determine how much the levy would cost your household,   you would multiply the assessed value of your house by .00217.  Seniors with an income less than $35k can apply for an exemption.

Members of the audience were concerned about what steps the district had taken to save money.  As with the City of Stanwood,  staff have been laid off .  All employees, including teachers have accepted a pay cut and/or furlough days while assuming additional duties resulting from staff reductions.  Where it was safe students have been required to walk farther to a bus stop to reduce diesel fuel consumption.   I asked questions about the school's ability to maintain scholastic performance under these cuts.  I was impressed by how the district was able to maintain standards with the help of local citizen volunteers.  The Washington State Report Card provides a detailed report on Student performance

Everyone interested in local Democratic politics is welcome to attend our meetings at the Viking Restaurant on the second Saturday of each month.