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Camas, WA — Camas School District (CSD) Superintendent Jeff Snell and Mayor Scott Higgins addressed the public Tuesday evening at the annual Camas State of the Community presentation at Lacamas Lake Lodge.

It was the final public address for Higgins, who retires his position this month. Camas School Board President, Doug Quinn, served as Master of Ceremonies.

Snell addressed the following:

  • District size
  • State assessments, national assessments, and secondary pathways
  • Beyond the classroom: Student mentoring, student activities, student athletics, intramural options
  • Social-emotional learning
  • The learning experience
  • History and vision of Camas schools
  • Challenges and opportunities
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District Size

CSD is now a medium to large school district with 7,100 students, 1,000 employees, six elementary schools, three middle schools, and three high schools.

“We think about the future of our kids,” said Snell. “We want students to feel part of the community, and … we want to inspire kids with their learning. They learn because they’re excited about it.”

Assessments

“Our kids are doing well with the assessments,” said Snell. “But we need to prepare them for the future, and we know they will have 12-15 job changes in their future careers. Kids need to learn how to learn.”

Beyond the Classroom

Snell praised the effectiveness of student mentoring programs, and how student activities and athletic events unite a community. He also said that CSD is introducing an athletic intramural program, and will report on its effectiveness at a later date.

Social-Emotional Learning

Snell said that Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) is broadly understood as a process through which people build awareness and skills in managing emotions, setting goals, establishing relationships and making responsible decisions, leading to success in school and life. Research shows that SEL on a large scale supports better performing and more positive school communities.

“It’s one thing to know how to do math,” he said. “But, it’s another thing to learn how to navigate the world, and how to interact with others. To know where your strengths are, to know what your weaknesses are.”

Community

Camas School District Superintendent, Jeff Snell.

The Learning Experience

“In order to engage them, and not just to engage them, but to inspire them, we want them to want to learn,” said Snell. “… We want to connect people with the reason why we are doing things. If we do that, we find that students are way more motivated. Workers are more motivated … We really try to personalize the learning.”

History and Vision

Snell praised former school boards that had vision, which was laid out in multiple phases, starting with Skyridge in 1994-1999 and moving to build multiple schools and the renovated Doc Harris Stadium.

Challenges and Opportunities

Snell outlined several challenges:

Student engagement: Educators continue to look for best ways to engage students.

Preparing our students for life after K12: Wants to make sure that CSD is adequately preparing kids for adulthood.

Social Emotional Health: He said social media puts unnecessary pressure on youth.

Growth and sustainable systems: “The new state funding model doesn’t benefit our community, and other communities will benefit more now. And it’s hard to do, it’s like health care reform.”

Federal government funding: “It has gone down, and I believe that school choice should happen within
public schools.”

Local levy: “We’ve been able to grow with local funds. New model caps the local funding, and we’re not able to keep pace. We’ve always been at the mercy of the legislature and the biennium. If this doesn’t change, then we’re heading for an unsustainable model, and we will need to have a conversation around priorities.”

Experience factor: “We have an experienced staff, and we used to get more funding for veteran teachers. We did well under the old model, but the new model just gives a set amount per teacher, and that’s a real problem.”

Regionalization: “I looked at the cost of living in particular regions. We received the highest regionalization so we got a 12% bump in funding. Other regions got more, others got less. In 2020, they will back off 1% of that, so we see challenges down the road.”

Special education funding: These are students that have the highest needs. We’ve had to use local funding historically to do that, with the levies.”

 

Mayor Higgins

Community

Mayor Higgins giving his final Camas State of the Community address.

 

 

 

Higgins addressed his 17-year history of public service in Camas, and all the changes that have happened during that period, starting with the population. In 2002, the population was 14,085. Today, it’s 23,770.

“Camas will stay special because of the people who live here,” Higgins said. “Jobs is what put Camas on the map, and we’ve always made sure that jobs are an important part of our community. People want to bring their businesses here. I’m also really proud of the families who make up this community.”

Elected to the Camas City Council in 2002, Higgins became Mayor in 2011, and he said during that time he was first elected Camas was working really hard to ensure that downtown was successful — and noted it was struggling at that time.

He talked about the excitement of the many downtown events, and how those events unite the community, and addressed success points during his tenure, which include:

  • City expansion east of Lacamas Lake
  • Camas turned 100 years old
  • Green Mountain and North Shore annexations
  • Downtown Camas Association founded
  • Construction of Lacamas Lake Lodge
  • Modernizing city services with new technology
  • The current Parade of Homes

The Future

  • North shore Lacamas Legacy Lands Project
  • Currently 880 existing acres parkland acreage in the Lacamas Lake corridor
  • City staff working to secure another 140 acres for parkland — before they are converted into developments

“Camas is surrounded with good leadership,” said Higgins. “We have an amazing council. They work hard to find common ground. They have a skill and that is the ability to try to find common ground. They don’t get polarized. They have that vision; they have that ability. Your staff at city hall is like no other. They figure out how to save our citizen’s money. They show up.”

“I just want to make sure you need to have tremendous confidence in our city council and staff, and that the city was built to be successful. I’ve had the honor of serving with 15 different council members, three Superintendents, and two mayors. I can say that ‘I love them.’ I love them because they love Camas, and that’s why Camas has been successful. So, I will just tell you I will be leaving some things in Camas, but I will not be leaving my Papermakers. I will always be a Papermaker.”

“We had a lot of changes happen in the city, and we’ve lost many of those mill jobs, and that causes you to be sad. It hurts deeply when those things happen, but we’ll be OK. Camas still has its identity, it still has its heart.”

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Camas, WA — The public is invited to attend the annual State of the Community address this evening at 6 pm at the Lacamas Lake Lodge, located on Lake Road and Everett.

The annual event is an opportunity to hear from local leaders about the state of Camas, its schools and what is happening with the Port of Camas-Washougal.

The event will be the final State of the Community for Mayor Scott Higgins, who has served as City Councilor and Mayor for 17 years.

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This year’s theme is “Celebrating Success.” Mayor Higgins’ speech will take a look back at the City, the changes that have occurred during his tenure, and exciting things that are underway.

The public will also hear from Camas School District Superintendent, Jeff Snell, whose administration avoided a teacher’s strike. It was the only district in Clark County to avoid a strike with the Camas Education Association, which is the local teacher’s union.

Snell will discuss the educational successes this past year, as well as the challenges that Camas Schools face in light of recent legislative changes to the funding model that affects all districts. He has been asking for parent support to deal with these upcoming challenges.

The event will be recorded and available for viewing in the weeks following the event at the City of Camas YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQ33V5v1DNIF24opS3mevqg

 

Camas, WA — Longtime Vancouver resident, and retired credit union executive, Larry Hoff, a Republican, is running for the open seat in the Washington State Legislature’s District 18, position 2, which is currently held by retiring Representative Liz Pike, of Camas.

New to the world of politics, Hoff outlined the reasons why he’s running, which are as follows:

  • Common Sense
  • Education
  • Balanced Budget
  • Small Business Support
  • Transportation

Common Sense

“Our campaign has been received quite well by so many here in our area, and it’s a great honor to run,” said Hoff. “I really want to bring a conservative common sense to the legislature. I’ve been in business for 35 years and there are challenges as to how people are going to pay their tax bills these days. There are many pressures on taxpayers right now, and we need to look at things with a common sense lens, and not be so partisan. If it makes sense do it, if not, then don’t do it.”

To learn more his campaign, visit www.ElectLarryHoff.com

Education

“People are at each other’s throats right now,” said Hoff. “Is there a way we can bring our kids back into focus? We need to make sure the kids are a priority in our education discussions. I’m not the polished politician that comes up with lines. I was on the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Foundation board, and I have a passion for kids. I just have a passion for the children. I’m interested in truly keeping them as a priority for us. I would rather meet with teachers directly, and I want to hear what the challenges are in the classroom. I would spend a day in the classroom to shadow teachers. I would more than enjoy that.”

Hoff said he’s been watching the outcome of the McCleary legislative fixes, and said he’s concerned about the impact, but says it’s too soon to draw conclusions.

Hoff

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“I’m not an expert on McCleary, but the legislation has been put to bed and blessed by the Supreme Court, and there will be course adjustments. I’m not sure the ship has sailed enough to make dramatic course adjustments. When the school districts feel there is an inequity they will address what they feel needs to be done — and we will listen.”

“The alternatives are the school district will ask for more money. Increasing taxes is not a good option. They will have to look at cost cutting. They will also see how this course proceeds and then make legislative adjustments. The levies are cut. I’m not sure now is the time to make dramatic moves. The influx of cash for has been drained through these last union negotiations. I would imagine the unions and districts have to see what is the longevity of this plan. I don’t see the children being mentioned a lot. We have to ask ourselves: ‘In all of these discussions what does that mean to the kids?’”

He said if he wins the seat, his objective will be to listen than to throw out political rhetoric, and will listen to the districts and see what’s been done in the past.

“I will understand the challenges and will listen to all sides. Right now, I believe the legislation has been enacted and we need to see how it plays out. I’m not the type of candidate that will sit here and promise you I have the silver bullet, but I can promise you is that I will lead us in the right direction.”

Teachers

Hoff is a big advocate of education.

Balanced Budget

“It’s not what you make, it’s what you spend,” said Hoff. “It’s a simple, but profound statement. The legislature needs to practice good financial practices — and they’re not. There’s no more appetite from the public for anymore tax increases. The Legislature has to live within its means.”

Small Business Support

Hoff has worked in small businesses for 35 years, and he sees the challenges they face.

“I’ve seen what regulations and taxes do to small businesses — L&I, B&O taxes, environment and all of the challenges builders have with those regulations are astronomical.”

He promises to be an advocate for small business.

Transportation

“We have to apply common sense to the transportation issues we face, and figure out the congestion/bridge issue, and we in the Legislature need to assist in that. Congestion, in general, is really bad on the Oregon side. We need to seriously discuss the topic of adding more bridges. We need to make decisions that are more than just answer today’s issues. I imagine the I-5 bridge issue is the most fixable one. You can replace it to eliminate some sense of congestion. But, if we don’t start making decisions for 20-30 years out we will fail the future. We failed 20 years ago when we didn’t make key decisions then.”

Listening

He did address the concerns he hears from school districts about the growing school levy issue.

“The people are justifiably concerned about this levy swap but it was a Supreme Court edict that attempted to equalize the funding model,” said Hoff. “The legislature crafted the legislation and it is now the law of the land. We understand there might be some course correction somewhere. I’m struggling with the course corrections before the ship even sails. Course corrections are increased taxes or decreased costs. School districts will come with several solutions. If indeed they recognize that there are some inequities they will present those to us.”

He’s taking a listen and learn approach.

“We make a mistake if we forget about listening and learning,” said Hoff. “I’m struck with the fact that McCleary has yet to be fully implemented, and we’re already wrestling with changes. It just seems to me that the Legislature did their work, and the Supreme Court did their work, and now we’ll see if their policy becomes as successful as anticipated.”

Hoff said he will look out for the taxpayer at every turn.

“We have to find other ways to resolve these financial issues,” he said “It’s always on the backs of the citizens. The Democrats want a state income tax. That’s not a good option.”

Background

Hoff has lived in the 18th district for over 40 years where he and his wife, Renee, raised their son, Tracy. Their son and their daughter-in-law, Helen, have one son, named Preston. Hoff grew up in a small North Dakota town where he worked on neighboring farms. After high school, he proudly served in the U.S. Navy, and after serving he obtained a degree in accounting from the University of North Dakota. Shortly after, Larry and Renee moved to Clark County, where he joined the Credit Union industry and attained the position of Interim President at Columbia Credit Union. He continued to dedicate a career to growing the financial health of the community, recently retiring as President/CEO of the $1 billion Fibre Federal Credit Union, after having left the credit union through 15 years of solid growth and expanded service offerings.

“I retired on January 1, 2017 and to tell you the truth I didn’t feel like I was contributing in retirement,” said Hoff. “I was searching for a purpose. I love my family and they keep me busy and fulfilled, but I wasn’t giving back to the community as I wanted to, and I learned Liz was retiring, and the position was open, so here I am.”

Is there a blue wave in Washington state?

Data from the primaries show a blue wave is coming, and that the GOP is worried about losing typically safe seats, including LD 18, Position 2.

“We were surprised by the primary results,” said Hoff. “Our effort is to work on promoting the positive parts of what we believe in — and working hard at talking to folks. I’m on the streets every day. I’m getting people to know who I am. I’ve called and knocked on 3,000 doors. We now have teams going on, and that will quadruple.”

We will feature Hoff’s opponent, Kathy Gillespie, a Democrat, on Wednesday.

Camas, WA — This Saturday, the Camas Athletic Boosters Club will hold its annual Tom Wallenborn Golf Classic and charity auction at Camas Meadows Golf Club.

This will be the 12th annual golf tournament and charity auction, which raises significant money for local athletic programs.

“Again this year it is a sold out field,” said Ryan Dickerson, of the Camas Athletics Boosters Club. “144 players are coming out for a fun round of golf supporting our local athletes. Last year, we raised a little over $58,000 and are hoping to beat this number this year.  The golf tournament is sold out but if people have any interest in coming to the auction portion of the afternoon please feel free to email us at camasboosters@gmail.com.”

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Dickerson said community members are free to come walk around and enjoy the afternoon. The auction begins at 2:30 at Camas Meadows.

“We have many local businesses that have sponsored this tournament and many of the different sports teams have put together baskets and different items for the auction,” he said. “We have some great trips, vacation homes, football games, and reserved 50 yard line seats with parking at the remaining Camas home games.”

The boosters club has raised significant funds to assist Camas athletic program. Here is a list of grants awarded from the past three years representing $168,822.67 in grants:

Grant Amounts:

  • 2013-2014 — $36,150.00
  • 2014-2015 — $89,326.17
  • 2015-2016 — $43,346.50
  • Total so far for almost 3 years — $168,822.67

Donations will help the Farmer’s Market provide fresh, local produce to area families

CAMAS, WA — Members of 100+ Women Who Care Clark County will write checks to the Camas Farmer’s Market for their third nonprofit selection of 2018. The total amount should be close to $10,000 once all donations are collected from members.

Members of the local giving circle met Wednesday, August 8 at Salud! Wine Bar in downtown Camas. Camas Farmer’s Market Board Member and Vendor Kimberly Koch, who is also a member of 100+ Women Who Care Clark County, nominated the farmer’s market.

Koch said the market operates on a tight budget and that the donations will help fund Produce Pals, which is geared toward encouraging children to make healthy choices at the market, and Fresh Match programs for SNAP recipients.

Koch said she’s passionate about the efforts the market makes to make sure fresh, local produce is available to a vulnerable population in Clark County.

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“Feeding our kids is the most basic, important thing to do as parents. Everybody deserves the opportunity to have access to healthy foods.”

Members voted to support the farmer’s market after hearing about two other Clark County nonprofits as part of the nomination and voting process. The other nominees were NW CAVE, a Vancouver, WA-based nonprofit assisting victims of domestic violence and human trafficking, and the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society.

100+ Women Who Care Clark County is a giving circle that meets quarterly. Members who attend are eligible to nominate local nonprofits to be considered for the quarterly donation.

Members commit to a $100 donation to the charity voted upon by the members at each meeting. Teams are also welcome to split the quarterly $100 contribution. Current membership is 120 women.

The next meeting takes place Wednesday, November November 7 from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. at Salud! Wine Bar in Camas. There is an optional social hour before the meeting from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. More information is available at www.100womenclarkcounty.com.

Women

Gathering at Salud! In Downtown Camas.

Camas, WA — The Camas City Council will review the final presentation of the proposed Urban Tree Program, and will likely vote on the new ordinance on September 4.

The council recently voted unanimously to have the city attorney officially draft an ordinance, much of which was based on citizen input.

“We are now drafting an ordinance to amend the city’s municipal codes and a resolution to amend the city’s fee schedule,” said the city in an official statement. “City Council will review these items – which will be available to the public – on Tuesday, September 4 at 7 pm, in City Hall. This new date reflects our commitment to ensuring that the ordinance is crafted with the utmost care. The meeting will take place on a Tuesday in accordance with our holiday schedule, with Monday being Labor Day.”

The September 4 meeting on the tree program does not include a public hearing. If adopted, the ordinance will become effective five days later.

Here are some highlights of the proposed Urban Tree Program:

  • Street tree permits. Residents looking to remove street trees from their private property would need a permit. Removed trees will need to be replaced.
  • Creates a new system for protection of trees with new developments that sets a minimum of 20 trees per net acre.
  • Changes municipal code for park and open space trees.
  • Adds very specific tree preservation language to municipal code.
  • Changes the fine and fee schedules for removing trees. Currently, from $500-$1,000, the new proposal is a scale that is based on size. The fine could be higher based on size for trees in critical areas.
  • Replaces Chapter 18.31 in the city code.
  • Amends Chapter 18.13 for landscaping.
  • Creates a city tree fund.

Please visit www.cityofcamas.us for more details.

Images from Public Hearing #2

Camas, WA — For the first time ever, Downtown Camas is hosting the Hoops 360, 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament. The event stems from a long tradition of outdoor 3 on 3 events that have averaged, over the years, 200+ teams of fun basketball competition from youth to elite athletes.

According to the Downtown Camas Association, this event has been happening locally for over 20 years. Games will start Friday, August 17 at 8 pm, and conclude at 10 pm. Saturday games begin at 10 am, and end at 5 pm. Games will resume Sunday at 10 am on Sunday and conclude by 3 pm.

Shoot 360, which owns Hoops 360, is the facilitator.

“We are a tech firm for basketball development,” said Brad Butterworth, who represents the company. “We have facilities all over the country. We use a tech platform to teach basketball skills — ball handling, shooting and passing. The company began in 2012 in Beaverton. Then they opened in Vancouver, then LA, Indianapolis, and we are opening a second California location soon.”

Shoot 360 recruited Butterworth, who is a former coach, after he started his own tech firm.

“I really believe in Shoot 360’s mission,” said Butterworth. “It’s incredibly powerful. We engage a positive way to teach our kids. And, it’s a very intriguing and powerful company.”

Their business model is member-focused, and boasts a membership of 500 in SW Washington.

“We are using technology as a coaching tool and resource,” said Butterworth. “It’s like Fortnite for basketball.”

Their Vancouver site is located at Fourth Plain in Orchards. To learn more, visit www.Shoot360.com

“Currently, every year we run a 3 on 3 event, which used to be Hoops on the River,” he said. “They closed shop. We wanted to keep that 3 on 3 thriving, so we rebranded it Hoops 360 3 on 3, and we ran it at Marshall Park, near Clark College. This year, we are moving it to Camas, so we’re really excited. We’re turning all of 5th Ave. from Adams to Dallas into an outdoor basketball venue.”

Hoops

Three men jump battling for the ball in a 3-on-3 basketball tournament held on the streets.

The events will happen on Birch Street between 5th and 4th, and on Cedar, between 5th and 4th — all of which will be basketball courts for three days.

Event organizers anticipate 4,000 people, and the City of Camas said it would be the second largest event behind Camas Days. They’re expecting 275 teams, most of which come from Clark County, but a few are coming from Seattle.

Hampton Inn and Subaru of America are key sponsors, who are helping them market and spread the word. In addition, there will be 12 vendors on hand, and they will be playing basketball movies at the Liberty Theater. A beer garden will also be available.

“We are trying to make it an entire family affair,” said Butterworth. “We want it to be a vacation-like experience. There will be live music playing. We’re bringing in people from Savannah to play. It’ll be fun!”

 

Analyzing the Math and the Effects of the McCleary Law

Over the last several weeks, Camas Education Association (CEA) union representatives, with assistance from the Washington Education Association (WEA), have met face-to-face with Camas School District (CSD) representatives to negotiate and bargain for new teacher contracts.

At stake is $7.1 million, which is CSD’s share of the $2 billion that is being appropriated from the State of Washington to “amply fund” teacher salaries across 295 school districts in the state. The $2 billion is new money that is being generated from the McCleary law that was passed late in the Washington State 2017 Legislative session. The law is funded by the largest property tax in state history.

That law, according to CEA union lead, Mark Gardner, was passed after the Washington State Supreme Court mandated the State Legislature “amply fund” teacher salaries, citing the state Constitution. The Legislature took years to draft a law to satisfy the court’s judgment (which required a legislative “fix” in 2018) and was done at the end of an unusually long, and often times, bitter, legislative session.

Baseball

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The CEA is seeking from CSD $5.9 million of those funds — to be used for pay increases for certificated staff, which comprises teachers, counselors, occupational therapists, physical therapists, librarians, choir and band teachers. Principals are not included in these bargaining and salary negotiations.

Union negotiators are asking for 11-12% raises for 432 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE’s) based on 2017-18 staffing, and at this time, CSD is offering a pay increase of 4%. There’s a discrepancy in the FTE , as CSD says this year’s budget plans for 452 FTE’s. CSD staffs more FTEs than allocated by the state through local funding sources. This creates a discrepancy in the total cost of proposed compensation packages.

There are several factors contributing to the current discussions, which include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Discrepancies with Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) total compensation cost.
  • Near and long-term effects of CSD’s levying capacity, which has been cut by 50 percent.
  • Complexities and confusion of the McCleary legislation.

Lacamas Magazine spent considerable time getting the union’s perspective on the matter, which was presented in a YouTube video on August 10. We also spent time on August 10 learning about the CSD perspective on these negotiations, and inquired about pay increase complaints from union members.

According to CSD, Camas teachers have been getting increases since the 2014-15 school year, as well as Time Responsibility Incentive (TRI) increases that are consistently above state average. TRI is compensation for additional responsibilities provided by certificated staff, such as end year closeout and new year preparation time.

Over that period, according to state-audited figures from CSD, starting teachers received annual increases of 3.5%, 4.5% and 7.3%. Average teachers received annual increases of 5.1%, 5.6% and 7.3%, and Top teachers received annual increases of 4.8%, 4.5%, and 7.3%. Overall increases during that three-year period are between 16% and 19%.

“We have the best teachers and a high retention rate,” said CSD Communications Director, Doreen McKercher. “We greatly appreciate them, and want to compensate them as well as we possibly can.”

During their August 9 bargaining session, CSD agreed to increase the raise from 3.1% to 4%.

How Are Teachers Funded?

According to CSD, this is one of the biggest changes in the new funding model. Previously, the state would fund the number of teachers allocated based on student population. If districts decided to go beyond the state allocation, that would require a local levy, which is what Camas does. The amount of money received used to be based on the experience of the teaching staff, and if a district had a larger percentage of experienced teachers they would receive funding through a factor called staff mix. Camas has a veteran staff mix, said McKercher, so CSD has greatly benefited from the previous system. In the new model, the state provides an average teacher salary amount for the state plus any regionalization for each district — and now staff mix has been eliminated. Districts with more veteran teaching staffs receive less proportional funding than they did previously. If compensation is greater than state funding per FTE then additional revenue will be needed in the future to avoid cuts.

McCleary

This charts shows state funding per FTE.

Both parties had a sixth bargaining session on August 11, in which CEA president Shelley Houle said the following (via Facebook post):

“Today we met with our district’s bargaining team to each propose an offer. Although we feel a significant gap still exists, positive steps were taken to find more common ground. We added three more bargaining dates that will take place after August 21st in anticipation that we can dig into the minutia of what a salary schedule would look like for Camas educators.”

“But, our work is far from done and there is no guarantee that the needed common ground will be found. We still must plan for the worst and continue to organize. All actions and events will proceed as planned. We appreciate your support and commitment to seeing this through.”

Specifics of Saturday’s bargaining session have not been made public.

“The status of the negotiations are ongoing, which is a good sign,” said CSD Superintendent, Jeff Snell. “Any time conversation is taking place, there are opportunities to learn more about other perspectives and hopefully find common ground. The change in the way we fund schools has put both our unions and district in a very challenging situation. There’s a lot to work through and figure out. Decisions obviously have implications for this year and the future as well, so we all want to be thoughtful about them.”

Snell also addressed community frustration, and asks for patience in the process. The complexities and effects of the McCleary fix are adversely affecting 270 of the 295 districts across the state. Only 25 districts have settled — and they are generally in smaller, less populated areas.

“I understand there is a lot of frustration about the process this year,” said Snell. “I’m frustrated too. I’m not frustrated with our staff. They deserve to be compensated well and the union’s job is to try to negotiate the best contract possible. I’m frustrated because we’ve advocated side-by-side for so long to increase the funding our students deserve in this state. Now we’ve been given a new system that is creating chaos. The new system is dividing districts instead of bringing them together. It would be easy to blame one side or another, but that’s too simple. That charge would be warranted if this was just happening in Camas, but it is not. I have had the privilege of collaborating with so many amazingly talented teachers, secretaries, custodians, administrators, board members, all of the diverse roles it takes to run a school district, from all over the state. A common theme amongst each of them is their commitment to students and to each other. It’s a gift to serve in public education and to do it well requires all of us working together and supporting each other. My hope is this challenge brings out the best in each of us and we come out of it even stronger.”

 

McCleary

Camas School Superintendent Jeff Snell speaks at the 2017 Camas High School Graduation Ceremony.

 

FTE Count

The union’s proposal is based on a 432 person FTE head count, which is different from the CSD’s 452 person FTE count. That’s a difference of 20 positions, reflecting a financial discrepancy of approximately $2 million, and is a major reason CSD can’t reach the 11% pay increase demand.

“CSD has passed flawlessly state financial audits for the past nine years, so our numbers are reliable,” said McKercher. “We’ve addressed this discrepancy with the union during the August 2 bargaining session.”

The district included this additional $7 million state allocation into their 2018-19 operating budget, which totals $94.43 million. Eighty-one percent of the district budget comes from state funds, while federal and local funds provide the remaining 19 percent to meet operating expenses.

 

McCleary

Mark Gardner is one of the CEA bargaining negotiators.

Levy Capacity Diminished by 50%

Because the McCleary law used property taxes to fund the Supreme Court mandate, it changes the way all school districts use levies to fund gaps in operating expenses. The result: CSD’s ability to levy has been reduced by 50% — from $3 for every $1,000 of assessed property value to $1.50.

“Because of McCleary, we are already losing $4.9 million in levy capacity in the next school year,” said McKercher. “They should have let us ride out our levy. McCleary takes away levies that people already voted for. We’re currently in the first year of a four-year levy.”

The McCleary law essentially negated the votes of Camas voters.

“We’ll have to go back out for a levy at only $1.50 instead of $3 in about a year,” said McKercher.

The CEA says “While local levy collection will decrease, it will be more than offset by the increase in state allocation.”

CSD disagrees.

“The district will be exhausting ALL state funding in 2018/2019 and using local levy revenues to continue to employ positions beyond what the state funds. The new legislation is reducing our local levy revenues by 50% in the calendar year 2019, which we use to fund positions and pay beyond the state allocation, 100% of extra-curricular activities, and subsidize underfunded areas of Special Education, Student Transportation, and Food Services.”

The district will be using local levy dollars to fund additional positions and pay of approximately $6.3 million districtwide and an estimated $2.2 million to cover the underfunded Special Education programs.

McKercher said that losing 50% of levy capacity is a blow to the district, and is a major repercussion of the McCleary fix. Levies started to become necessary as state funding didn’t keep pace with running a school system. Levies essentially filled in the gaps.

The other issue is that levy money only flows in twice a year, and if homeowners are behind on their property tax payments, that could affect operating revenue.

“All districts have to contend with this,” said McKercher. “We’re in this mess because of a badly written law. This is a state-wide effort, and WEA is focusing on changing the law, but it’s coming at the expense of our relationships.”

The McCleary “Fix”: Bad Legislation

According to Bill Keim, former Executive Director of the Washington Association of School Administrators, the McCleary legislation has fundamental flaws:
• Local levy reduction aren’t equal across the board, and cuts local levy authority by a statewide average of $947 per student.
• Creates a new approach to the Local Effort Assistance (LEA), which aims to help areas with lower property values. He says the new system creates the “haves” who can secure a total of $2,500 per student in local funding and the “have-nots” who can only secure $1,500. This approach is blatantly inequitable.
• A net negative effect on levy and LEA. He says: “The district that fared best with these changes is estimated to gain over $3,800 per student, while the district that did worst will lose over $9,500 per student. Those lost dollars will be hard enough for the districts to accommodate, but these are also the most flexible funds districts receive. Their loss will make it much harder for the districts to accommodate local priorities or to smooth out the anomalies in other state funding allocations.”
• He says: “58 school districts will receive more money than needed to provide their 2017-18 workforce with a 19% increase, and 237 districts won’t receive enough. On one end of that equation, the biggest winner will receive $7,175 more than it needs, and at the other end, the biggest loser receives $15,394 per certificated instructional staff (CIS) less than needed. The legislative message in the face of this problem seems to be just make it work.”
• A major challenge to account for local funds, and clarification on limitations of enrichment funds. He says: “That clarification is very important because, for the first time, school districts must account separately for their use of local funds, the State Auditor will audit that accounting, and there are sanctions for the inappropriate use of those funds. To date, no one in any position of authority has offered a definitive interpretation, much less released WAC rules that generally guide school districts with the implementation of new laws. Given the landmark nature of these laws, the absence of that guidance is very troubling and will require 295 districts leaders to make their own interpretation about this part of the legislation.”
• While some districts like Lake Washington fared well under this law, he says most will not. Keim says: “While that will likely be portrayed as administrative tightfistedness, the reality is that most school districts will have much less new funding to put on the table. That highlights the fact that in the post-McCleary era, student zip codes will still determine the quality of education they receive. And the sad reality is that in many communities, that disparity may be even greater than before.”

McKercher said the impact of McCleary as it currently stands, will force CSD to lay off staff and/or eliminate programming in two to three years.

The other outstanding issue is that legislators in 2018 passed a budget that lowers property taxes by $400 million over the next two years — which is designed to give property owners some relief after the sticker shock of getting tax bills following the McCleary legislation in 2017. While property taxes, which are a primary source of school funding, are reduced, so are the levies. That puts more squeeze on all school districts.

The Effects of a Strike

The CEA is currently organizing a strike vote, which is planned for August 27. According to Gardner, it’s not something they want to do.

“We are planning our curriculum and operating as if everything will be normal on September 4,” Gardner said.

A strike has many repercussions:

1) The state won’t waive walkout days — and will enforce the state mandate that students attend for 180 days.
2) If a strike goes past September 15, CSD employees who do not work will lose their benefits for that month.
3) If a strike goes past September 15, CSD employees who do not work will not get paid.
4) Family schedules will be adversely affected.

McKercher said the district is committed to compensating CSD employees as much as possible, and that she’s worried about how the effects of a strike will affect long-standing relationships in the community.

There are still several bargaining sessions on the August calendar, and we will continue to report news as it becomes available.

Camas, WA — At their third quarterly event Wednesday night at Salud Wine Co., 100 Women Who Care Clark County heard from three non-profit charitable foundations, and voted to help out the Camas Farmer’s Market.

As is their quarterly process, each member nominated a charity of their choosing, and each card was placed into a bucket. At random, three cards representing three different organizations, were selected: Camas Farmer’s Market, NW Cave, and the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society.

Members who nominated these three groups each spoke for several minutes on the benefits and services each non-profit provides.

Prior to those testimonials, the group also heard from representatives of Villages Northwest, the recipient of $10,000+ from the past meeting. They reported they’re using the funds to expand their operations in Camas-Washougal. They were pretty excited about the generous gift.

Kimberly Koch, owner of Truly Scrumptious, represented Camas Farmer’s Market (of which she’s a Board member) and explained that the market provides two valuable programs to help lower-income families.

One program is called Produce Pals, which provides $2 per child at each market event to purchase fruits and vegetables.

“It encourages people to try new, healthy and fresh foods,” said Koch.

The other Camas Farmer’s Market program is called SNAP Match. The market will match any SNAP funds to be used at market booths, and is only available. For example, if a consumer has $5 in SNAP funds, the market will match $5 to be used on fresh produce there.

With the money raised from 100 Women Who Care, the market will expand those programs, and be able to help more people — especially children, to get access to high quality food.

To learn more visit www.100womenclarkcounty.com or www.camasfarmersmarket.org

 

Camas, WA — It was standing room only Monday night at Camas City Hall as residents listened to a public presentation on the proposed Camas Urban Tree Program, and spent more than an hour expressing their opinions about tree planning. It ended with the Council voting to have the City Attorney draft an official Urban Tree Program ordinance that will be voted on in the near future.

Senior City Planner, Sarah Fox, presented the tree program, which has been in progress since 2016, and explained its key points. The city views trees as public assets.

Here are some highlights of the proposed Urban Tree Program:

  • Street tree permits. Residents looking to remove street trees from their private property would need a permit.
  • Changes municipal code for park and open space trees.
  • Sets a minimum of 20 trees per net acre.
  • Adds very specific tree preservation language to municipal code.
  • Changes the fine and fee schedules for removing trees. Currently, from $500-$1,000, the new proposal is a scale that is based on size. The fine could be higher based on size for trees in critical areas.
  • Replaces Chapter 18.31 in the city code.
  • Amends Chapter 18.13 for landscaping.

Please visit www.cityofcamas.us for more details.

Following her presentation, City Councilors listened to more than an hour of public comment on the program.

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Public Comments

The first citizen to address the council was Karen Weiss, who is concerned with preservation of older trees.

”Smaller trees can’t replace the older growth trees,” she said. “How do you define critical trees? Can a 100 year-old tree be replaced by a bunch of smaller trees? I’m also curious about who governs the fines? I’m worried that people will simply pay the fines and developers can get rid of the trees. How can you protect super old trees?”

Residents expressed concerns that fines weren’t high enough.

Geri Rubano asked for fines to be increased four-fold, and recommended that tree density should be up at 30 per net acre.

“The plan you have now definitely provides more protections than we have now,” said Cassi Marshall, who was appointed to the work on the program as a citizen representative. “It’s a great place to start.”

Longtime Camas resident, Lynne Lyne stole the show Monday night with an impassioned plea to stop clear-cutting.

“Why on Earth has it just been the past two years that the Council has said ‘hey maybe we need to look at the way we’re developing our town?’ I agree with Geri completely … why the heck do you allow clear-cutting, non-stop clear-cutting …? Clear-cutting with houses crammed together … is that the quaint, wonderful town of Camas we want to create for ourselves? I would think it’s not … I’m dumbfounded that this has been allowed to go on for so long.”

Tree

Cassi Marshall expresses her support of the Camas Urban Tree Program at Monday’s Public Hearing.

Public consensus, based on those who spoke at Monday’s meeting, is to raise the number of trees per acre unit from 20 trees to 30. The public also wants to make the fines greater, and a better explanation of how fines are processed and decided. There was a great deal of concern about clear-cutting.

Following the public comment time, council members and city employees answered several citizen questions, which included how fines are processed, what percentage of trees would be required to be evergreen, why clear-cutting is allowed, and when this would take effect.

Fox said fines would be put into the fee schedule that would be assessed by a code enforcement officer. She added that “generally unauthorized tree removal isn’t from our development community, it’s from our citizens who go into open spaces behind our houses, which are really the city’s open spaces and parks, and they’re cutting down a tree for a view — usually that’s the reason …”

She said the proposal allows the officer to respond to the illegal activity and deal with the issue, and enables them to write a ticket on the spot. The fine would be based on the size of the tree. The next step provides guidelines on how to assess the actual value of the tree, which would be an additional fine. The violator is also required to replant.

Fines would go into a city tree fund.

Fox said the program requires 50 percent of new trees be evergreen, and also requires the other trees be a native species, as well.

Councilor Greg Anderson indirectly addressed a clear-cutting question from Camas resident, Keith McPhun.

Greg Anderson Indirectly Answers Clear-Cutting Question

The new ordinance would only apply to new developments, and would not be retroactive to developments already agreed to.

”I would love it if the fines were higher, and it was 30 instead of 20, and I understand why the compromises were made in looking at all the factors but I think this is better than what we have now,” said Councilor Deanna Rusch.

”I feel my question about clear-cutting was only partially answered,” said McPhun.

The council’s vote on Monday mandates the City Attorney draft an official ordinance, which will be based on the Camas Urban Tree Program presentation by Fox.