Letters to Editor for Jan. 28, 2021

Renewing Camas School District levies will provide ‘consistent local funding at lowest local school tax rate since 2007’

The citizens of Camas have a tradition of partnering with our schools. For more than forty years, an essential part of that partnership has been providing local funding through voter-approved levies.

As superintendent, I get to see how that support combined with the tireless work of staff, students, families and our entire community comes together to ensure our kids have the best education possible.

Every three to four years, as these levies expire, we collectively decide the funding for that partnership moving forward as we consider renewing these critical levies through a February election. Renewing these levies will provide consistent local funding at the lowest local school tax rate since 2007.

Local funding has built the district we have come to know and love. It provides additional staff, technology and critical services that support our students. It also provides the funding needed to run our award-winning extracurricular programs. Activities such as music, theatre, athletics, clubs, and academic teams aren’t just important to students; they help our community come together. Whether it’s a Friday night game at Doc Harris, an incredible theater production or Team Mean Machine competing for a world championship in robotics, these activities help build the story of who we are in Camas. They weave our families together in a tapestry of love, care, support and pride for our children. It brings out the best in all of us.

Running an election during a pandemic is challenging. With so much uncertainty about the best path forward, I understand and appreciate criticism about our timelines and protocols for returning students to on-campus learning. Depending on each family’s unique circumstances, we may have moved too slow, and for others, it might have been too fast.

As we look back on our global and local response to this pandemic, I am sure we will learn a lot about our decisions and their impact. I am also sure that we will return to the kinds of in-person experiences that we love, that benefit our students greatly and require local funding support.

To help inform your decision on these replacement levies, you can find answers to questions and detailed information about local levies online, at camas.wednet.edu/budget/budget/financial-summaries/local-levies/.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of renewing these long-term initiatives that will impact our students in the coming years, and thank you for being a part of this great community.

Camas School District Superintendent Jeff Snell,

Camas

Camas school propositions will increase tax collections

On Jan. 22, the Camas School District (CSD) mailed an 8-page report favoring proposed levy rate hikes. No voters’ guide with statements for and against were mailed for the February 9 “Special” election dedicated to schools. Voter materials with ballots didn’t mention the online voter’s guide at the elections’ website.

The CSD mailer states that proposed Camas levies will fund programs, “without increasing local tax rates.” However, the Program/Operations levy rate proposed is higher than years 2019-2020. Legislators raised state school taxes dramatically in 2018, and capped the local Operations levy rate at $1.50 to compensate, effective 2019. However, other lawmakers later lifted that cap, and the Camas School Board voted to raise the Operations levy rate to $2.15 for 2020, then up to the new maximum of $2.50 APV for 2021. The proposed Technology/Capital levy rate nearly doubles from approximately 28 cents APV in years 2019-2021 up to 54 cents APV for 2022-24, a clear increase. The ballot shows that taxes collected district-wide are projected to increase if the propositions pass.

Overall, public school spending has doubled in eight years, and Washington’s public schools spent approximately $16,000 per student in 2019. State and local school tax collections continue to rise with property values, and over half of property tax bills go to schools. Other vital services like roads, fire, and more also require public funding. How much is enough for schools?

The wealthy Camas School District shows revenues from all sources, local, state, federal etc in 2019-20 to be about $133,213,785 for approximately 7234 students. That translates to about $18,414 in revenues per student. Five different fund balances held a total of approximately $ 57,278,091 in reserve in 2019-20. Although 5 percent in reserves is prudent, the district insists on 10 percent in reserves, and could change that policy. Reserves are described in part as rainy day funds.

This COVID economic lockdown is certainly a time to draw from reserves if needed, instead of raising levy rates, again. Local businesses face harsh regulations, lost revenues, closures, and unfair B& O taxes, whether they make a profit or not. Record unemployment, reduced working hours and fixed incomes make it difficult to keep up with rising bills and taxes.

Camas administrators, teachers, and staff have been mainly shielded from economic hardships. “Camas compensation is the highest in Clark County and fourth highest statewide in terms of cost as a percentage of overall budget… benefits are currently equal to about 39 percent of salaries” .

The district collected the full Operations/Programs levy funds in 2020, yet closed schools and halted or reduced many extracurricular programs as well as local transportation. How much has the district saved? Student enrollment has dropped, about 6 percent lower than January 2020.

Legitimate concerns about the comprehensive sex education curriculum have been raised. The Operations Levy raises more funds for school-based healthcare, that can offer controversial medical advice and referrals to minor students for off campus surgical procedures, without parental knowledge or consent. For details, visit ParentsRightsInEd.org.

CSD staff are urged to accept fast tracked vaccines approved for emergency use only. Adverse reactions to COVID vaccinations include 181 deaths reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) as of 1.15.2021. A 2010 study by U.S. Health and Human Services concluded that “fewer than 1 percent of vaccine injuries” are reported to VAERS (visit ChildrensHealthDefense.org).

Camas schools have abundant means to serve a declining student population, at the same Technology/Capital levy rate as 2019-21. The Programs/Operations levy rate should honor the 2019 levy cap promised when state taxes were boosted, $1.50 APV (visit SchoolTaxInfo.com).

Margaret Tweet,

Camas

Camas School District is ‘of and for’ all of us

For over 20 years I’ve witnessed a constantly improving and growing school district here in Camas. Our three kids attended the schools here and are now on to their young adult lives. I feel like I’ve been a part of a community that, for over those 20 years, has come together to provide educational opportunities for a wide variety of learners and extracurricular opportunities for anyone who wants to, well, do a little bit extra after school.

This community: the city, the citizens and the teachers and administrators, have bonded into a high performing unit that benefits all of us. Strong schools beget a strong community and vice versa. A vibrant downtown Camas spins off from confident citizens, for example.

And yes, even those of us whose children have moved on to the rest of their lives benefit from this great community. And it’s for that reason that I strongly encourage all of us Camas voters, young and old alike, to VOTE YES for the two replacement levies on the Feb. 9 ballot. A YES vote will assure the continuation of everything we’ve built in this community – of and for all of us.

Mark Klein,

Camas

Former school board member voting ‘yes’ to CSD levies

As a former school board member and parent of three graduates of Camas schools, I am writing this letter to encourage support for the Camas School District’s levies, which will be on the Feb. 9 ballot.

In my view, there is no better investment for a community than public education as it benefits us all and builds a better future for our young people.

The levies on the ballot are replacements of the current levies, which expire at the end of the year. This makes (the levies) even more critical, because they are required for the continuation of teacher positions and programs that are fundamental to our students’ basic education.

Please support our great schools in Camas and join me in voting YES.

Mary Tipton,

Camas

Camas: ‘a place we’re proud to call home’

My partner was 8 months pregnant with our second child when we first stumbled upon this cozy town at the end of 2019. We had dreams of relocating to the Portland area within the next few years but had no familiarity with any of its surrounding towns or neighborhoods, so as we were passing through on our way back to the Bay Area from Seattle, we decided to investigate. To begin our search we needed a plan of attack, and the best place to form a plan is obviously over a plate of corned-beef and hash at a highly rated diner. As luck would have it, that diner would be none other than Natalia’s. 

As we drove into downtown we were both struck

with the same thought, “it’s like we’re entering a postcard… or a Hallmark

movie!” Everything about this quaint downtown felt magical, from the

architecture of the buildings and theater to the stone fountain and statues to

the smiling faces of passerby (this was pre-masks), and with this environment

and atmosphere we couldn’t help but be all smiles ourselves.

Before eating we strolled the streets to let

our two year old, as well as our pup, stretch their legs after being cramped in

the car for hours. The pair of them zipped from corner to corner filled with

excitement and wonder (and a full puppy bladder), as they examined every

building and bush, taking in the balance of nature and industry.

After a bit of exploring we wandered to

Natalia’s where we were immediately sat at a comfortable booth. Now let me tell

you, Natalia’s is our kind of diner. A place where the staff moves quickly only

to allow more time to chat with you. A place where the food is hot and

delicious and the portions are plump. A place where you feel like you’re in a

room full of neighbors. 

Once filled to the brim, and when our two year

old was finally done flirting with the waitress, we headed back to the car,

still without a plan. But we knew we didn’t need one. Our search was over

before it ever began. We’d found a place that we’d be proud to call home. 

Six months later we were packing our bags and

we’ve been here ever since. Thank you Natalia’s, and thank you Camas, for

opening your loving arms. We promise to love you back.

 

Dylan Koller,

Camas