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January 30, 2014     Shelton Mason County Journal
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January 30, 2014

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LETTERS Continued from page A-4 vulnerable citizens. In particular, I'm concerned about proposed cuts to food stamps when more than one in every four children in Mason County depends on food stamps for all or part of their vital nutrition. I urge our citi- zens to find opportunities to speak out against putting any more of the bur- den of our weakened economy onto our most vulnerable citizens and especial- ly their children. The current House Republican budget proposal includes a proposed $135 billion reduction -- almost 18 percent -- to the program over 10 years. The best way I know to speak out on these issues is to write a letter or make a phone call to your U.S. representative (Derek Kilmer for most of Mason County) or Denny Heck (for Shelton and south of Hammers!ey Inlet and east of U.S. Highway 101) or to either or both of our U.S. senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. Woodson Moore Shelton Support school's levy Editor, the Journal I am writing this letter to express my support for the upcoming Educa- tional Programs and Operations Re- placement Levy for the Shelton School District. Although I am a Shelton School District employee, I am writ- ing this letter as a parent of children attending our schools. As a parent, I believe that my children, along with all of the other children who attend schools in the Shelton School District, deserve to have every opportunity that students receive in any other dis- trict across our state. Unfortunately, schools in the United States are not fully funded and there are great ineq- uities in facilities, curriculum, tech- nology and the quality of programs. However, local levies can help districts make strides to level the playing field. While levy funds makeup approxi- mately 16 percent of the school dis- trict's budget and are used for a vari- ety of purposes, I want to focus on the importance of ensuring our students have access to current technology. It is well-documented that the number of jobs not requiring an in-depth un- derstanding of computers and other technology are dwindling. In fact, cur- rent trends of employment indicate that homegrown job applicants lack the needed mathematics, computer, and problem-solving skills to succeed in the 21st century job market. Fur- thermore, job applicants from other countries are filling an increasing per- centage of the top science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) job positions in the United States (Na- " tional Research Council, 2011). It is imperative that we give our students the opportunity to be exposed to and become intimately familiar with the latest advances in technology so they can be prepared for their careers, as well as post-secondary educational opportunities. Without levy dollars, it is impossible to maintain our current technology, let alone acquire new and exciting educational tools that give our students a competitive edge in today's job market. When considering whether or not to vote "yes" on the upcoming levy, it is important to note that if the levy passes, the state will provide an ad- ditional $1.9 million (approximately) annually in levy equalization funds. If the levy does not pass, the district will not receive any additional fund- ing from the state. In essence, we will leave $1.9 million on the table if the levy does not pass. Let's continue to pull together and do what is right for our community and for our children by voting "yes" on the upcoming Edu- cational Programs and Operations Re- placement Levy for the Shelton School District. Additional information is available on the Shelton School District website at sheltonschools.org Bracken Budge Union A 'yes' vote benefits youth in community Editor, the Journal Last week, registered voters in Mason County received ballots for the upcoming Feb. 11 election. This election includes a replacement levy for the Shelton School District. The current levy, which voters approved in 2011, expires at the end of 2014. Voting "yes" for the replacement levy will provide continuation of needed funds through 2017, and will ensure that the district will receive approxi- mately $1.9 million per year in levy equalization funds that are only avail- able to the district if the levy passes. Levy funds help pay for maintenance of our schools and help fund critical programs, such as state and federally mandated section education programs for students. Your "yes" vote demonstrates sup- port for educational programs and ser- vices for the youth of our community. Our youth deserve safe and healthy learning environments and we need to make an investment in providing the educational resources they need for fu- ture success. Strong communities can- not exist without the public's support of a strong educational system. Your vote is important in this election and I urge you to join me in voting "yes" for the future of our kids and schools. Mike Olsen City of Shelton commissioner Shelton Transparency missing in budget process Editor, the Journal On Christmas Eve 2013, the Mason County Board of Commissioners met to adopt the 2014 county budget. The agenda announced the action under "Other Business." Unfortunately, the dozens of changes made to the prelimi- nary budget were not made available to the public or even to the depart- ment heads. At the chief financial officer's request, the vote to adopt the budget was delayed until New Year's Eve, the last possible date allowed by law, giving the officer a chance to review the numerous changes made by the commission and see if the pro- posed budget would balance. Additionally, Resolution 82-13 was adopted establishing a new Depart- ment of Support Services. The re- structuring includes two new, top-pay range positions and salary reclassifi- cations of other existing positions. So far, the estimated costs are $178,000 in additional expenditures. To the best of our knowledge, no input from department heads or other elected of- ficials was sought in the planning or implementation of the restructuring decision. In 2009-10, the League of Women Voters of Mason County conducted a study of the budget and theprocess used to adopt it. The league recom- mended a process that would increase transparency and allow for citizen review and input. Specific recommen- dations included: 1) Use the single set of budget documents generated by the auditor in accordance with state law to avoid duplication of effort and confu- sion resulting from different budget numbers; 2) Maintain an audit trail of changes from the preliminary budget to the final budget to ensure the integ- rity of the budget process; 3) Hold the first budget workshop in October as allowed by state law, and subsequent workshops through November to al- low public review and input on the preliminary budget. This process was subsequently used for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 budgets. For 2014, these rec- ommendations were largely ignored. Why is transparency and public in- put important? Citizens - taxpayers whose money funds the budget - have the right to know how their tax dollars are spent, and to have access to clear informa- tion. They also have the responsibility to review the work of the officials they elect -- the commissioners, the audi- tor, the treasurer, the assessor -- and to ensure, as much as possible, that county services address the needs of its citizens. With a single set of budget figures and an audit trail, everyone - BOCC, county departments and the public -- have the same information and budget changes and decisions can be tracked. Decisions that are not transparent, either to the public or to department heads and other elected officials, give the appearance of deception. what questions remain? 1) What are the real costs of the new Department of Support Services, and how will they be offset in 2014 and beyond? 2) what improvements in services can the public expect from this depart- ment? How will this department be accountable to the public? 3) How will transparency and op- portunity for public review and input be restored to the budget process for 2015 and beyond? In addition to these questions, three others with major budgetary implica- tions were raised by the state audltos report: 4) what is the county's plan for fi- nancing the $500,000 to $1 million per year shortfall for the Belfair sewer? 5) What is the plan for correcting the past inequities in the current ex- pense departments' contributions to the Equipment Rental & Revolving (ER&R) fund? 6) How will the county ensure per- sonal and business property taxes will be collected equitably? The league urges the commission- ers to return to a practice of open government and transparency in the budget process and to take responsibil- ity for developing a clear and equitable budget. Michelle Bell President, League of Women Voters of Mason County Shelton Pollution poses issues for Mason County Editor, the Journal It was with great expectations that I read the Jan. 9 article in the Mason County Journal titled "Geoduck test relieves Shelton harvesters." The ar- ticle says the state test shows safe lev- els of arsenic in the geoducks in Puget Sound's Poverty Bay. The great concerns are the loss of revenue and layoffs due to China's putting a ban on imports from West- ern Washington. This is very serious. Nobody wants to eat seafood and get arsenic poison- ing. An earlier report also mentioned paralytic seafood poisoning (PSP), but I could not find any further informa- tion relating to that statement. Still, another article quoted Dave McBride, a toxicologist with Washington state Department of Health, that the Chi- nese were reporting levels at 1.7 parts per million (ppm), and their maximum level is 0.5 ppm. I can't understand why someone isn't talking to the Chinese and finding out if they both are testing the same way. The Department of Health's testing showed 1.75 ppm in the skin, 0.102 ppm in the gut and 0.063 ppm in the meat. However, there is no information as to what the "safe" arsenic level is. It makes me think it is an oxymoron to call arsenic safe. The Department of Health also advises not to eat the skin. All of this disorder raises many questions. What if you cook the whole thing, roasting, boiling or on the grill, and then take the skin off before it is cooked? Is there cross-contamination from handling? The Chinese eat dif- ferently than we do. It may be cus- tomary to eat the whole thing. They consider crispy fried chicken feet a delicacy. The other question bothering me is how many and much of all the other "safe" levels of poisons, heavy metals and / or contaminants can we be taking into our bodies and not have a deleterious effect on our health? We are beginning to see that the cost of preventing pollution, and contamination, to prevent or less potential health problems is much less than the price of job and revenue losses. If we continue to keep add- ing more pollution to the enormous amount we already have, what will be safe to eat, water to drink or air to breathe? Patricia Vandehey Shelton Vandalism of Broncos items uncalled for Editor, the Journal It seems to me that around here if you want to cheer on and support your team you might want to hide your flags or any other outside items with a Bronco logo on it. I had a Den- ver Broncos street sign and a Bron- cos scarecrow stolen from our front yard. The lowlife dirtbags pulled the sign and post out of the ground, stole the sign and then moved the scarecrow that my 11-year-old had decorated in a Broncos jersey and helmet and stole it too. Class act by Shelton's finest. Just so the criminals know, I am a disabled veteran and my wife is blind. Way to go Hawks fans. Lee Rust Shelton Mason County Journal - Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014 - Page A-5