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    Paying for city parks: District v. levy

    On a pleasant spring night in Seattle, a crowd of locals packed the City Council chambers to weigh in on a plan to fund city parks, open spaces and community centers.
    Scenic Golden Gardens is just one of the parks on the city's maintenance to-do list.

    Scenic Golden Gardens is just one of the parks on the city's maintenance to-do list. Credit: Wonderland/Flickr

    It would have been a great evening to be at a park with the temperatures in the high sixties and partly cloudy skies. But as the sun sank outside City Hall on Monday, a near-capacity crowd packed the council chambers to air their views on a plan to help fund Seattle’s parks, open spaces and community centers.

    During a roughly three-hour meeting, the City Council heard public comments about the Metropolitan Parks District (MPD) backed by Mayor Ed Murray. Proponents say the district plan would provide a stable funding source to help pay for backlogged maintenance. Opponents typically favored a parks levy, like the one voters approved in 2008, which expires at the end of this year. They also worried that voters would not be able to hold the district accountable, that the proposal was being rushed and about the future tax hikes. 

    The district proposal would raise $54 million annually through a property tax, according to the Mayor’s Office. Property owners would pay $0.42 per $1,000 of assessed value, meaning that a resident with a $450,000 home would pay $189 annually. Under the current Parks and Green Spaces Levy the same homeowner would pay about $85. The six-year levy has produced around $24 million annually in tax revenue since it went into effect in 2009.

    “A levy is a recipe for decline,” said Brad Kahn, a board member at the Seattle Parks Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates and raises money for public spaces. “We need a stable dedicated source of funding. A parks district is the best vehicle.”

    Rusty Williams, ex-chairman of the Magnuson Park Advisory Committee, took the opposite stance. “I am a parks guy,” Williams said, before sharing his concern that since voters would not understand the district proposal it would fail at the ballot box. “The levy system is the way to go,” Williams insisted. “People vote for levies and they always pass.”

    The parks district would be an independent taxing authority that could levy up to $0.75 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The revenue the parks district produces would flow into the Seattle Parks and Recreation budget. The City Council members would serve as the district's governing board and it would not have any employees. Once created, the parks district could only be dissolved through a vote by the board.

    “We’ll vote no on an MPD, which can charge as much as four times more” than the levy, said Sharon LeVine, who called the district "unaffordable" and said it was being rushed to the ballot. She also expressed concerns that the district’s tax rate could be raised without a public vote, and noted other future costs Seattle would likely face for universal pre-school, streetcar construction and the proposed waterfront park.

    The 2014 parks and recreation budget is $135 million. Murray and other proponents of the district plan say it is needed to help pay for a $267 million parks maintenance backlog. The maintenance list includes a wide range of projects such as athletic field renovations, drainage improvements and roof repairs. The district would contribute about $29 million annually to major parks maintenance.

    Ed D’Alessandro, Executive Director for the Seattle Youth Soccer Association, said the city needs more playing fields, particularly at Magnuson Park. “The MPD seems like a better funding model than the levy system,” he said. “Over time it should provide better and more predictable funding.”

    At least two speakers mentioned the problem of invasive holly on the city's parklands. Another said that Seattle should charge developers "impact fees" to help pay for parks rather than create the district. One district supporter in the crowd wore a hat made from fake pine boughs and decorated with small ornamental birds.

    Liem Le, speaking through a Vietnamese translator, said: "I want to see more funding for low income income and historically underserved communities." Le joined a group of Yesler Terrace residents who are for the parks district and wanted more programming at their local community center.

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    Posted Tue, Apr 8, 8:55 a.m. Inappropriate

    It was interesting to see the number of people Woodland Park Zoo and Seattle Green turned out to support the MPD, two groups that would profit financially from the MPD. Oh, and Seattle Parks Foundation staff that didn't identify themselves as such.
    Did anyone happen to notice that almost all, if not all who opposed the MPD were just average park advocates who wanted a levy, at least until the City was able to address with the State the many "technical issues" relating to the lack of binding accountability?

    Posted Tue, Apr 8, 10:07 a.m. Inappropriate

    Yes, parksadvocate, I noticed those things too. I also noticed that most MPD supporters were there for a specific parks program, not for the MPD per se.

    People have many concerns about the MPD, but unfortunately the City never convened a public forum where voters could learn about the MPD and then have their questions asked and answered. There's been lots of "input" on what a parks tax increase should fund, but no public conversation about funding mechanisms.

    If the MPD is truly a good thing, why did the City go out of its way to avoid this conversation with voters?

    Posted Tue, Apr 8, 10:34 a.m. Inappropriate

    What I noticed was that everyone opposed to a park district were white, older and angry.

    They always said "I support parks, but..."

    In fact, they are the same people who oppose every good public act this city has ever taken.

    In contrast, the park district proposal was supported by a very diverse group of people who use parks. From immigrants to forest restoration advocates to ball field users to the Aquarium, lots of people realize a park district is the best way to fund the parks and programs they love.

    Don't be fooled by the Lesser Seattle crowd. The majority of our great city want to invest in parks to keep this a wonderful place to live.


    Posted Tue, Apr 8, 11:14 a.m. Inappropriate

    You missed the mark, toaster. This older white guy wasn't angry, only sad and disappointed and frustrated. I've been a Seattle voter for 45 years, and I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've voted No on a local tax measure. Not exactly your Lesser Seattle crowd, huh?

    If, as you say, a park district is "the best way to fund the parks and programs", then why the communications failure? Why no conversation with Seattle voters when it counted, before finalizing the ballot measure?

    Posted Tue, Apr 8, 10:48 a.m. Inappropriate

    jtoaster generalizes "What I noticed was that everyone opposed to a park district were white, older and angry."

    What does that make you besides an age and racial bigot? "Everyone" opposed? really? I know some districts are on spring break, but you should really go outside and play.

    In the course of your extensive research in the Metro Parks Districts around the State, I am sure you have identified that the existing Parks Districts, for the most part, were started and have been funded by older, white people, who were angry with the state of disrepair their parks were in.


    Posted Tue, Apr 8, 11:32 a.m. Inappropriate

    I'm willing to pay for parks and agree that at present a levy is the best way to go. That is partly because I doubt an MPD in the presently suggested form would be approved at least on a first try.

    The idea MPD funding is attractive but it may be best to go farther with the idea than is presently being considered. Why not have an independent elected governing body instead of the City Council, transfer present park department assets to it, and have it employ park workers?

    That is the model used by some other cities such as Tacoma.

    There would likely be more accountability. Even at present the City Council has only limited capacity to provide oversight or direction given all its other responsibilities. And how the council will function after district elections begin is a cause of concern. The electorate could evaluate a new board's performance solely on park related criteria.

    There would also be a advantage in that the new district freed of some City imposed mandates and overhead costs could be more efficient and manage more effectively. It could also stand up to other City Departments better and would no longer be limited by Seattle's personnel department restrictions.

    No matter how funding is increased there is be need to keep the City Council from shifting the proportion of general fund income now going to parks to other uses.


    Posted Tue, Apr 8, 1:10 p.m. Inappropriate

    I attended the meeting as well and thought folks gave a good summary of why they supported the formation of a MPD. What came from the opponents tended towards the "no new taxes" rhetoric. I'm not saying there should not be a critical analysis before voting for this - I just really did not hear much of a coherent argument against it - other than "I don't like taxes".

    As far as not having an extended "conversation" with the public - I agree that this issue, and many others, would benefit from a bit more education from the city. But if the insulation is that the city is trying to rush it through the election process falls flat.

    Tacoma is a good example of a local MPD and it seems to work well.


    Posted Tue, Apr 8, 5:57 p.m. Inappropriate

    My take on last night's Public Hearing was different. To me, the pro-MPD crowd fell into two categories--people supporting their favorite program (adult soccer, trees, community centers) with little or no understanding of MPDs. These individuals had probably come in response to an e-mail blast which suggested that without an MPD, their fave program would lose its funding. The second group of MPD admirers were CEOs/EDs/Directors of very large programs (the Aquarium, the Zoo) supporting their own program or institution and for whom the MPD represents an increase in an already very large income stream. (Speaking of aging white males, this group was predominantly of that type, with the exception of I believe one woman--the Zoo Director.) If one subtracts the more-or-less uninformed & the vested interests, there was almost no support for the MPD. The opponents varied in their objections. The most consistent message I heard was not wanting to lose the input voters have with levies, and the loss of accountability which follows. Some are not convinced the Parks Department is that well-managed now & aren't sure throwing more money at the problem is the answer. Others do fear the increased tax burden. But unlike Treker above, I heard many coherent arguments and I hope the CMs were paying attention.

    Posted Tue, Apr 8, 7:01 p.m. Inappropriate

    Seemed to me the levy-supporters were saying, before going with the half-baked MPD for a ballot measure, there needs to be some thought given to unintended consequences- think beyond the simple idea of more revenue - identify and fix the inefficiencies in Parks - fix the problems of unaccountability with the MPD - think of the real possibility of an MPD failing because you didn't do it right in the first place. That all sounded like some pretty *rational* forward thinking to me....

    And as for the "no new taxes label", obviously you haven't taken the time to talk to many pro-levy folks, the majority of whom voted for a $40-54mill spending bill at the 3 public meetings, the same 3 meetings where 80% voted against the MPD and supported a levy. The main problem is with the funding mechanism which just isn't ready for the ballot yet.

    Sorry, you can't make that label stick!

    Posted Tue, Apr 8, 8:26 p.m. Inappropriate

    Well, it's my opinion based on what the speakers presented. I'm not sure what the "lack of accountability" issue was about, nor did anyone clearly articulate this. I'm assuming they see the evry-two-years need for levies as an advantage because........?

    I'm not sure how I will vote - I'll need to research a bit more. But the anti-MPD came across as another anti-tax crowd with vague reasons for opposition and NO suggestions - oh, but one - vote down the MPD. I also should sat the "vote for" the MPD was a shotgun approach of issues


    Posted Wed, Apr 9, 11:58 a.m. Inappropriate

    "Please read (and comprehend)" -- Indeed. Responding to this and your post below:

    • Levies are often six years, not two.

    • Levies are often accompanied by explicit allocations of money to specific items. MPD has an "Interlocal Agreement" (ILA), but it's a self-dealing contract that can be changed. I hear rumors of a City Attorney opinion saying ILA is binding, or something, but I've never seen it.

    • Most people I heard who testified against MPD started by saying "I have voted for every tax levy..."

    • Alternatives? Aside from a six year levy, commenters suggested a permanent revenue stream from impact fees. That option was expressly kept off the table by the citizens committee. [http://www.seattlechannel.org/videos/video.asp?ID=5011360&file;=1 at minute 43]

    • The MPD would be less accountable because there is no assurance of adequate oversight over time. The current proposal establishes a property tax levy at double the current rate, and future increase without a public vote could double it yet again. There is less oversight because the current council becomes the MPD commission. They can't even exercise oversight of the Parks Dept under the current structure! (See if you can find a comprehensive Parks Dpt audit at http://www.seattle.gov/audit/reportindex.htm) Tacoma MPD has a separately elected board; that model would make a Seattle MPD more accountable.

    • "They [Parks Dept] have laid off quite a bit of staff." What positions? Last data I've seen (2011) shows the department has over 20 employees making over $100,000/year. Over $2.5 million in 2011 dollars.

    I think "half baked" is a fair characterization.


    Posted Wed, Apr 9, 12:42 p.m. Inappropriate

    Thanks for a straight-forward reply - one follow-up.

    The separate board makes sense.


    Posted Wed, Apr 9, 2:51 p.m. Inappropriate

    Just to continue this discussion. I looked up the regulations for developing a MPD. Board members serve either a 5 or 6 year term, depending on when elections are held. Why do you think this is any more accountable than voting for a City Council, particularly when the Council will be voted by district soon?

    As far as no limits on taxing, this is not true - the following is applicable to a MPD taxing authority:

    In November 1997, voters in the state passed Referendum 47. This law limited the property tax levy for the coming year to be the highest regular property tax levy for the last three years multiplied by a "limit factor," plus any additional taxes attributable to new construction and changes in the value of state-assessed utilities. (RCW 84.55.010)

    With the passage of Initiative 747 in November 2001, for taxing jurisdictions with a population under 10,000, the limit factor is now 101 percent. For jurisdictions with a population of 10,000 and over, the limit factor is one hundred percent plus the lesser of one percent or inflation. (Before the passage of Initiative 747, the statutes read - 106 percent” rather than - 101 percent.”) "Inflation" is defined as the percentage change in the implicit price deflator (IPD) for personal consumption expenditures for the twelve-month period ending in July as published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis in the September issue of the Survey of Current Business. (RCW 84.55.005)

    Impact fees are not a feasible option either from a practicality standpoint or political. No way in hell that will bet passed by the Council as lobbied by developers. Shoot, they can't even get adequate impact fees for parking, sidewalks, and lighting now!

    While levies list general areas of expenditures they are full of all kinds of wiggle room. Just look at the recent one and try and match it up with Seattle Parks expenditures.

    Still not sure how I'm going to vote on this one but a few of these arguments are not too strong.


    Posted Wed, Apr 9, 3:05 p.m. Inappropriate

    You also cited the 2011 Parks budget - here's the cuts they made that year - so yea, there were staff and program cuts.

    Parks began the budget process with a “baseline” budget of $131,911,000 for 2011. This figure represents the amount it would cost to maintain the 2010 level of service in 2011.

    Changes to the baseline budget, developed over the summer, include:

    Construction Reductions
    The budget is reduced by $1,729,000 and 11 FTE.

    Capital Reductions
    Because Parks will have fewer capital projects in the next two years, there will be $613,000 in
    staff savings (3.55 FTE), and Parks will reduce planning support for Neighborhood Matching Fund projects.

    Administrative and Technical Reductions
    Parks will achieve $1,222,000 in savings from reductions in management and administrative staff (11.37 FTE) that reflect the lessened needs of a smaller department. 5.5 are strategic
    advisors or managers.

    Strengthening Programs and Partnerships
    Because Parks will rely more on the development and sustenance of community partnerships to operate, the proposed budget adds $243,000 and 1.5 FTE positions to support those efforts, to
    manage special events, and to provide teen job readiness programs.

    Parks identified $879,000 in savings from lower utility use resulting from the installation of energy-saving devices systemwide, fewer claims against the city for parks and recreation related
    incidents, a reduction in the staff training budget, and the use of Parks’ fund balance (savings from operating funds not spent in 2010).These savings are the direct result of diligent
    employee actions.

    Cost of Living Increases
    Parks will reduce the budget by $837,000 to reflect no cost of living increase for directors, managers, and strategic advisors, and a 0.6% cost of living adjustment for all other employees,
    assuming the labor contracts changes are ratified by the Coalition of City Labor Unions.

    Fees and Charges
    Parks will implement a new fee for plan review and modest fee increases for entrance to the Japanese Garden, room and gym rentals, picnics, revocable use permits (use of park property
    for a non-park use), and at Camp Long, Amy Yee Tennis Center, swimming pools, athletic fields, boat ramps, and the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center. These fee increases are consistent with Parks’ new fee policy, which relies on comparisons with fees of other regional
    agencies, reflects the cost of providing a service, and weights fees in favor of activities that provide an overall community benefit. The new and increased fees are projected to bring in $1.1

    Arts Funding
    The proposed budget includes $1 million in funding from the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs (from admissions tax revenues) to support Parks’ arts programming downtown, in neighborhood
    parks, and at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center.

    Park Maintenance
    The constraints of the 2011 budget will mean unprecedented reductions in park maintenance. The Parks Division budget will experience a 7% cut in funding, which will result in a 14% reduction in staffing levels (40.83 FTE). These reductions total $2.4 million.

    Ballfield maintenance and lining will be reduced significantly, meaning that user groups will need to step up and take on many of these duties. Our second shift that keeps comfort stations clean
    year round will be cut 40%. We will still have three crews to maintain limited evening service.

    Peak summer staff is significantly reduced. Our route-based maintenance program will be stretched: the size of routes will be expanded and the number of staff servicing them will be
    reduced. This means a reduction in both capacity and frequency in basic park cleaning: service levels will diminish in litter pickup, comfort station and picnic shelter cleaning, and turf and shrub
    bed maintenance. Our urban forestry program will be reduced, leading to a decrease in the frequency of tree pruning and a reduction in our capacity to maintain our 3,200 acres of forested parkland. Kubota Garden and the Arboretum will see a decrease in staffing levels.

    Facilities Maintenance
    Reductions to Parks facilities maintenance activities total $772,000 and 12 FTE, and reflect a 10% reduction in the workforce. These cuts mean the apprenticeship program is eliminated, which will slow the completion of projects and work orders. The fence crew is eliminated and metal fabricator staff is reduced, resulting in deferred maintenance and a focus on safety-related work. The reduction of four positions on the Paint Crew will mean less frequent interior painting
    of buildings; the focus of the remaining crew members will be graffiti abatement and preventive maintenance.

    Recreation Facilities
    In recreation, we made efforts to maintain services in every neighborhood, and our recommendations reflect consideration of demographics and need, proximity of another center,
    and volume of child care and preschool programming, which we consider to be essential services. Five community centers will fall under new models of operation. This represents a reduction of 1,530,000 and 19.75 FTE.


    Posted Wed, Apr 9, 3:34 p.m. Inappropriate

    I don't like a 5 or 6 year term; too long. District council elections by themselves won't solve every accountability issue we have with current Council. But I'll bet a district council with 5 or 6 actual neighborhood representatives (I'm not counting on District 7 to be very progressive) would provide more of a check on the "let's put every gew-gaw in the MPD so people all over town will vote for their goodies" attitude. District council logrolling might lead to a similar result, but the accountability would likely be increased because failure to actually get the gew-gaws would lead to a lot of strife. I.e., the promise would be stronger than the ILA. And it wouldn't be permanent; who knows what gew-gaws are going to be needed in 6 years, and why should we trust the council instead of voters at that time?

    I do not believe R47 applies to limit the maximum amount MPD's are authorized by statute to levy. The whole point of the MPD is to remove the Parks Dpt from the City's levy lid imposed by stupid Eymanism, as blunt a policy hammer as ever existed. There's no problem that can't be fixed without smashing it to pieces. I get that, all you MPD supporters. The answer is to fix the state's regressive tax structure, not impose more bad policy at the local level.

    Yes "way in Hell" a district council could pass impact fees. If all the small cities around here can do it, why can't we. http://www.mrsc.org/subjects/planning/impactpg.aspx That's a major reason for a district city council; they'll be less beholden to the developers. Westneat's column in today's Times cites to one of the efforts to get impact fees--http://calseattle.wordpress.com/

    As for your budget work, good info. What I'ld like to know is how many $100,000+/year jobs were eliminated. What's the average pay of the FTEs that were cut? Is it even possible to calculate that figure, or does the provided budget info mush other cost savings together with FTE savings to make it impossible? An audit of the Parks Dpt is way overdue.


    Posted Wed, Apr 9, 6:26 p.m. Inappropriate

    I lost the link to the MPD state regs that say 747 applies- I'll try and find it. Just saw the Westneat article - interesting.

    Can't say I know about how may $100k recipients there are in Parks.

    With the Impact Fee item - it doesn't seem that this would alleviate the issue of a constant revenue stream - development, as we have seen, goes up and down. Plus there are a whole pile of demands for such money. I agree we should be charging higher impact fees to deal with infrastructure demands, I just don't see that you'll be able to squeeze enough money for Parks in such a formula.


    Posted Wed, Apr 9, 6:59 p.m. Inappropriate

    As with almost all "solutions" impact fees is not a panacea but it is a way to get a relatively steady flow of revenue without a vote. The irritating thing is, as you point out, the developers have owned the Seattle City Council so long that impact fees have been kept completely out of the public discourse. Perhaps a glimmer of change:

    The March 13 Seattle Planning Commission meeting minutes (sorry, they don't video their meetings) contains, "Mr. Foster noted that DPD is exploring impact fees primarily for open space and transportation. He added that DPD is considering impacts fees as a potential mechanism to addresses the impact of new development. Mr. Foster noted that this will be a significant and multi-year effort, and the Commission’s input as it moves forward would be greatly appreciated." That's Marshall Foster, DPD Planning Director.

    I'll keep watching for info on impact of Eymansanity on MPD revenue stream. Thanks for digging.

    Number of $100G employees at Parks is public record provided to me by another digger. I don't resent the fact of their existence nearly as much as the lack of audit transparency.


    Posted Wed, Apr 9, 8:26 p.m. Inappropriate

    Good conversation on MPD issues here. Of course the City should've convened a public forum to explain how the MPD would work and provide some good responses to the issues being discussed so thoughtfully here.

    But the City didn't want to do that. They want to limit MPD discussion to the political campaign arena, where it's purely a Yes or No proposition. Shame, really.

    Posted Thu, Apr 10, 7:19 a.m. Inappropriate

    MPD taxing authority regulations: http://www.mrsc.org/subjects/parks/spd-mpdtax.aspx

    And all the minutia: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=35.61


    Posted Thu, Apr 10, 10:02 p.m. Inappropriate

    Thanks; MRSC is excellent as usual. Nevertheless, it is difficult to cut through that math to figure out exactly what taxes a Seattle MPD could collect. The essay says "A group thinking of forming a metropolitan park district needs to check with its county assessor to find out what its maximum initial levy can be to see whether it makes financial sense and to try to estimate what the levy might be in the future if the levy is prorationed or is on the margin for prorationing."

    My question is, has this analysis been done by the Parks Dept or the City Council? I don't recall seeing it. How much could the MPD raise taxes, and at what point would or could it run into prorationing limitations?


    Posted Fri, Apr 11, 8:46 a.m. Inappropriate

    I admit I'm catching up on this issue - has it specifically be planned for a ballot measure - and when? We also have a transportation district in Seattle that is run by the City Council, and those funds then go into SDT -

    The Council should lay out a few more details and also include a citizen's advisory committee just as they do for the transportation funds.


    Posted Fri, Apr 11, 12:56 p.m. Inappropriate

    Parks, Bagshaw, and others on Council claim there is an adequate citizens advisory included for MPD in ILA. Without any publicly available legal assessment of the claim. Sorry, but at this point I don't trust the at-large incumbents who are all in a tizzy over how they are going to keep their $125,000 jobs on November 3, 2015.

    In addition to the MPD that's being rushed to an August 5 ballot to lock in that structure before we get a district oriented council, there is also a public campaign financing proposal working its way around on the Second Floor. Likely to be put on the November 2014 ballot, the current council is going to try to thread the needle between the progressive community who want it to actually level the playing field (without whose support it will probably fail), and an "incumbent protection act" such as requiring so many contributors to qualify that it favors those with an existing very large rolodex of donors.


    Posted Fri, Apr 11, 1:01 p.m. Inappropriate

    On your ballot measure question: MPD can only be created by vote. It's a separate, new municipality with its own taxing authority. That's the whole point. It's been stewing for a while, but largely out of public view. Putting it on an August ballot in a non-municipal election year without sufficient information on impacts or alternatives as we have been talking about is the other point; it's an offense against democratic governance.


    Posted Fri, Apr 11, 1:51 p.m. Inappropriate

    I'm leaning towards punting on this one - not that I'm necessarily against an MPD - but there seems to be quite a few loose threads flapping around yet. Thanks for the input.


    Posted Wed, Apr 9, 5:27 a.m. Inappropriate

    GailChiarello who exactly was speaking of aging white males? "(Speaking of aging white males, this group was predominantly of that type, with the exception of I believe one woman--the Zoo Director." So how old was the woman? Please explain the reasons that the age and race are important characteristics to the conversation?


    Posted Wed, Apr 9, 9:34 a.m. Inappropriate

    Dear Cameron, The commentator called "Treker" brought it up ("older, white, and angry"), and I was countering. Actually he did not say "males." I agree, age, race, gender & hair color are irrelevant ...

    Posted Wed, Apr 9, 9:55 a.m. Inappropriate

    Umm, no, not me dude. I'd didn't even say "older". If you go back and actually read my post the closest I come to this is "no new taxes rhetoric".

    Not clear where the "old white guy" stuff is coming from. Please read (and comprehend) a post before responding.


    Posted Thu, Apr 10, 10:36 p.m. Inappropriate

    jtoaster above said "white, older and angry". Gail probably naturally assumed that males were involved...

    Posted Wed, Apr 9, 8:09 a.m. Inappropriate

    So - maybe I should just be asking a few questions from the opponents of the MPD--

    --Why is the proposal framed as "half-baked"?

    --Why is it framed as "unaccountable"? The City Council, who will act as the board are elected officials - soon to be by district - this is unaccountable?

    I think a majority would agree that the Parks Dept. has a backlog of maintenance and such and their budget is pinched. They have laid off quite a bit of staff. Why is a levy, which has to brought to the votes every couple years (with costs for the ballot measure) preferable to a more steady income stream of a MPD?

    What changes in the current MPD proposal would you recommend?

    These were items I would have liked to have heard explained in the meeting.


    Posted Mon, Apr 14, 11:04 a.m. Inappropriate

    As usual, the topic is getting off track a bit. The original article is about class size - I don't think there's much argument that small class sizes would help and that in WA we have an odd way of funding our classrooms. Then again, people do want accountability.

    Urban schools do have quite the chore however - I work in my kids school in the central district one day a week and I have to say - I never realized the workload that teachers and administrators have. Holy crap - I could not do it! And yea - I'll be in the school Wednesday as usual helping out because the teachers will be there as well.

    We don't get adequate funding and depend on our annual fundraiser/auction to bring in money - shoot - these funds pay half the salary of our librarian who otherwise would be working half time. We also raise funds for science supplies, library books, and art materials - we depend on two local artists for art class since this was cut out 5 years ago.

    North end schools generally have better demographics and make more money on their fundraisers than we do - but without this extra money we would be worse off. And yes, yes, yes -- I see teachers on all levels forking out their own funds so they can get materials to raise the caliber of their lessons.

    One instance - Seattle schools used to fund a science program with the UW (two positions) where UW developed general lesson plans and hands on science workshops for the kids - the Seattle staffers would give workshops to the teachers and help them learn the variety of "kits" of materials available.

    No more - the program has been cut. So the district science teachers are keeping it alive by meeting and networking and resupplying the kits with their own funds. Each school has their own limit on how much they can reimburse teachers - usually around $150 a year. I specifically know that at least a dozen science teachers around the district are forking out more than this just on this one program.

    While I go to school board meetings and try and put some time in the issues I find that giving time to the teachers themselves is an immediate need I can fill.


    Posted Mon, Apr 14, 11:07 a.m. Inappropriate

    sorry - clicked/posted in wrong conversation


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