Camas city, school leaders mull 2023 legislative priorities

City officials will discuss needs again at January workshop

Camas city and school district leaders are in the process of nailing down their list of legislative priorities they hope state legislators from the newly redrawn 17th District will fight for during the 2023 Washington State Legislative session.

On Dec. 19, interim Camas City Administrator Jeff Swanson presented a list of possible 2023 legislative priorities to Mayor Steve Hogan and members of the Camas City Council.

Among the issues up for inclusion on the city’s list of 2023 legislative priorities are the following:

  • Funding for the Camas Slough Bridge replacement, which would likely take a multi-year package and would require money for right-of-way acquisitions;
  • Additional funding to continue building a lake management plan — and to implement the plan — to protect Camas’ Lacamas, Round and Fallen Leaf lakes;
  • Funding to help pay for the city’s planned upgrades to its historic Crown Park;
  • Advocating with other local cities for a criminal justice training center to be built in Southwest Washington. Swanson said many city leaders and police chiefs in Washington have pushed for regional criminal justice centers to be placed around the state to help make a career in law enforcement more attractive for people who have family responsibilities and cannot easily be away from their homes for four to five months to attend the state’s one police academy;
  • Funding assistance, possibly through the Washington Department of Commerce’s capital budget, to help replace two failing fire stations, including the Camas-Washougal Fire Department’s headquarters’ building in downtown Camas; and
  • Funding for upgrading the city’s internet technology (IT) security.

Swanson said he intended to bring the legislative priorities list back to the Council at a workshop on Jan. 3, 2023, to discuss in more detail.

Camas School District considers its ’23 legislative priorities

Camas School Board members also kicked off a legislative priorities discussion during the Board’s Dec. 12 workshop.

Camas School District Superintendent John Anzalone led the school board members through the Educational Service District (ESD) 112’s top legislative priorities — additional funding for special education to alleviate local school district’s reliance on local levy funds; a need to fix and fully fund a state transportation model to get students to and from school; addressing students’ increased mental and behavioral health needs; and addressing the state’s supermajority rule that may be preventing some school districts from securing local funding to upgrade and modernize their school facilities when they get more than 50% support from voters but can’t meet the supermajority voting requirement.

While most Camas School Board members agreed the priorities established by the regional ESD 112, which includes the Camas and Washougal school districts, are important, the majority of Camas board members also wanted to see CSD come up with its own list of priorities to take to representatives from the 17th Legislative District before the start of the 2023 Washington Legislative session.

Two issues Camas School District leaders could also focus on — in addition to those priorities posed by the ESD 112 — include a need for a “regionalization factor” that could provide more money to school districts, like Camas, that have a higher cost of living, making it harder to attract new educators and school support staff; and an experience factor that could provide more funding to districts — also like Camas — that have a high number of highly experienced teachers, who may earn substantially more than new teachers.

“We do (employ) several seasoned, veteran teachers, so we tend to pay more for our teachers than other districts,” Jasen McEathron, the district’s director of business services, told school board members on Dec. 12. “There used to be funding (for the “experience factor,”) but we missed out on that when McCleary was put in place.”

McEathron said the district also could benefit from a better school transportation funding model as well as from increased funding for its special education programs and students.

“(Currently), 25 to 30 cents of every dollar we spend (on special education) is locally funded,” McEathron noted.

The school board members said they also would like to include visual elements on their 2023 legislative priorities list to help legislators better understand why the issues are important to Camas School District, how much it might cost, and how the district would utilize the funding.