I am writing to discuss the impact of the governor's budget proposal that includes closure of the Naselle Youth Camp. With a $6 billion shortfall in revenues over the biennium, she had to make some drastic cuts in the state budget. While we applaud her efforts to live within the means of revenues, we need to take this chance to encourage the Legislature to look at the big picture in relation to the closure of NYC and find another option.

The fiscal impact of a closure of the camp is simply too big of a hit and affects too large a percentage of our community to implement. Even though this is a small employer when considered in light of areas like Seattle, Tacoma or Olympia, it is the sixth-largest employer in Pacific County. The scale of losses here needs to be explained to our legislators in the context of our small community. There are roughly 85 jobs at Naselle Youth Camp and 60 at the Naselle Grays River Valley School District. The closure of the camp would eliminate about two-thirds of those jobs.

What legislators need to understand is that it would be a huge impact to our school system. We have a top-notch school system here that is one of the best in the state. Both the middle and the high school have earned School of Distinction status over the last two years. This reflects our being in the top 5 percent of schools in the state in regards to student performance. What the closure of the camp would do is cause a total restructuring of staff at the classroom and administrative level.

The camp school employees would be absorbed in to the K-12 school staff and some current staff would lose their jobs. There will be unfortunate impacts at the classroom level throughout our district if the camp closes for this reason. We are not like a large district that can fill jobs through retirements, etc. We only have one K-12 school that serves all our students. This is a foreign concept to someone from a larger system. No matter how much we try and avoid it, we will lose good teachers and administration if the camp closes. We will also lose students, which will affect our finances and our ability to offer quality programs to the students that remain.

As superintendent, I can assure you we will prevail no matter what happens and will fight to maintain a quality program for kids no matter what. If we can work together to keep the camp open, this job will be much easier. We will have major cuts in funding even if the camp stays open. The reduction in Levy Equalization funding that is proposed for the next biennium will reduce funding to Naselle by $38,776. Levy Equalization is the assistance given to small, property-poor districts from the state to offset the lack of tax base that poorer, rural districts have. Cutting this funding is hurting the poorest districts in the state and not hurting the richer districts a bit. Combine that with the loss in indirect funding for the youth camp of $43,000 and that is over $80,000 right there, not counting losses of revenue because of fewer students. For us, it's a double whammy.

Why force this kind of an impact on a school system that is doing such a great job? That is a message we can help drive home to our legislators. Maintaining the Levy Equalization and keeping NYC open are two huge issues for the Naselle Grays River Valley School District.

Basically the budget process goes like this:

1. The fiscal office looks at projected tax revenues and expenditures and gives a report to the governor

2. The governor proposes a budget based on the projections

3. The legislators review and make proposed changes to the budget

4. Usually, the budget is approved by the legislators in April, but it could go later since the stakes are so high

As far as this process goes, we are at step 3. This is the time legislators need to hear from us regarding the closing of the camp and Levy Equalization. Starting Monday, Jan. 12, the 105-day legislative session began.

Members of the Legislature can be easily reached via e-mail at

http://apps.leg.wa.gov/memberemail/Default.aspx. The links are active once you log in to the site, just click on their name, enter your name/address and so forth and paste your message in the message box. If you wish to contact more members of committees other than the chair and vice chair, the senate and house Web page have all that information. Local Representatives:

House: Dean Takko, Brian Blake

Senate: Brian Hatfield

House Committees:

Ways & Means: Chair: Kelli Linville, Vice Chair: Mark Ericks

Health and Human Services Appropriations: Chair: Eric Pettigrew, Vice Chair: Larry Seaquest

Education: Chair: Dave Quall, Vice Chair: Tim Probst

Human Services: Chair: Mary Lou Dickerson, Vice Chair: Tina Orwall

Senate Committees:

Ways and Means: Chair: Margarita Prentice, Vice Chair: Karen Fraser

Agriculture and Rural Economic Development: Chair: Brian Hatfield, Vice Chair: Kevin Ranker

Early Learning Development and K-12 Education: Chair: Rosemary McAuliffe, Vice Chair: Erik Oemig

Human Services/Corrections: Chair: James Hargrove, Vice Chair: Debbie Regala

Joint Committee:

Administration and Delivery of Services to Children and Families: Sen. Debbie Regala, Sen. Val Stevens and Rep. Maureen Walsh.

I will be also be including this information in my next Key Communicator e-newsletter and if anyone would like to receive it that isn't on my list, just send me a request at abennett@naselle.wednet.edu.

Alan Bennett

Superintendent

Naselle Gray's River Valley

School District

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