Letter to the Editor: I'm concerned about the City's data

Friday, October 29, 2010

To the Editor:

I am concerned about the data presented in the City of Shoreline's Proposition 1 mailer. The City mailed this four page document to each household. The City web site has a PDF link:

Page 4 of the document shows three charts comparing Shoreline's costs with those of other cities in the region. These charts list no source information, nor time-frame information. I took my concerns to City Hall where a staff-member was kind enough to meet with me. It is now my understanding that this data presentation was prepared the City of Shoreline alone. There was no independent reporting. For instance, our City decided which parks expense items would be included in the comparison with other municipalities. This requires interpretive effort and should be done by a disinterested party.

I am not suggesting that anyone is trying to mislead the voters. However, when the City gathers the data itself, and does its own comparison and interpretation, there is an an opportunity for bias, whether intended or not.

I would advise my fellow Shoreline voters to be wary of data that is presented without source attribution. I would ask my City to use a qualified, independent data source when attempting to inform voters. It's serious business when you ask for higher taxes.

In closing I would like to express my thanks to all the city employees. I know they work hard to run Shoreline and make it a desirable place to live.

I hope a city representative will comment below.

Valerie Craig
Shoreline WA


Anonymous,  October 30, 2010 at 8:35 AM  

all data should have source attribution, otherwise it does leave the authors open to criticism of bias..

Anonymous,  October 30, 2010 at 12:34 PM  

Thank you for pointing this out. I'm very concerned about the role the City is playing in this campaign I, for one, do not like to be threatened. Nor am I foolish enough to believe that approving a tax increase for the General Fund will necessarily mean the funds would be used to maintain the services we have been threatened will be lost. When this City proposes an increase with the funds generated attached to services (and not salaries/benefits) I will give it serious consideration.

Additionally, I'm very displeased to see City Council Members Hall and Winstead using their position to promote this Proposition. I believe it is a violation of their oath of office.

Anonymous,  October 30, 2010 at 1:15 PM  

11:34 anon poster - Don't like Councilmbers Hall and Winstead standing up for what they believe? Boo hoo. Sounds like your views align with the anti-Prop 1 views of Janet Way and Cindy Ryu, who were defeated by Hall and Winstead. Or the other 32nd District-endorsed council loser, wannabee Councilmember Wendy DiPeso, Chair of the NOs, who lost to Mayor McGlashan.

Janet Way October 30, 2010 at 4:39 PM  

Dear Anonymous 1:15 10/30,

I just wish to make clear that I have not taken a position on Prop 1, either on the SAN site or on my own blog.

I believe the No committee is sincere in their beliefs, as are the Yes committee folks. I have still not voted or stated my position. I've stayed neutral, in order to give both sides a chance to comment on my blog.

However, when snarky, opinionated people with Pro Shoreline attitude try to impune my motives, it does not make me feel particularly interested in supporting the Yes position.

Howerver, I believe in the City's Vision and Goals which I voted for. I Voted for last year's budget and represented this City for 4 years, with sincerity. I proudly supported the Parks Bond and worked hard for it's passage. I think the City can do well it it takes some responsible measures to economize. And I know, this will be a difficult time for all local governments to deal with the difficult fiscal choices.

It's too bad that people like this commenter, need to continue their destructive campaign of retribution and divisiveness, because that is not what Shoreline needs right now.

There are good reasons for people to support Prop 1, and other valid reasons for voting NO. This divisiveness should really not be a factor in why one votes yes or no.

All of my votes were public on the City Council.
But, I will cast my ballot soon, but I will keep it private, which is my right.

Good luck to all voters grappling with this issue.

Anonymous,  October 31, 2010 at 6:14 AM  

Will Hall bulk email is certainly questionable, where did he get those email addresses?

Anonymous,  October 31, 2010 at 9:25 PM  

Please everyone regardless if you have voted or not. Even if you don't please go to the City's 2011 Budget on the city's website or go to the hearings. We are trying to raise taxes and bringing the reserve lower than $3.8million, ridiculous! The levy does not address the gap; you must go to council and offer solution of what to cut. They are going to cut services either way if we do not speak up. You need to state your case about keeping all of your services. I am sad to see that wages and benefits are up 3%, and services stay the same or have had a reduction. This is not about Yes or No on a Levy Lid increase; this is about Shoreline rotting from the inside out.
Budget 2011 pg 41-42
The major changes in personnel costs include a combination of the following:
Personnel Costs: The 2011 budget reflects a 3.3% increase, $459,407, in personnel associated costs.
The salaries budget is increasing by $120,276 or 1.1% in 2011. The salaries budget includes both regular (benefited) and extra-help personnel (nonbenefited).
Regular salaries: The budget for regular salaries will total $10.1 million in 2011. This is an increase of $142,138, or 1.42%, when compared to the 2011 budget. Approximately 41% of regular employees are eligible for a stepincrease in 2011, and $119,737 of the projected increase is linked to anticipated step increases. The remaining increase of $22,401 is linked to changes that occurred in 2010 as vacant positions were filled and finalclassification were approved in the adopted 2010 budget.
Extra-Help salaries: The extra-help salary budget is declining by $16,739, or 2.25%, and totals $724,318 for 2011. General recreation extra-help has been reduced by $7,311 to maintain funding in 2011 at the same level as is expected to be expended in 2010. Funding for intern positions within the Planning and Development Services department has been eliminated for 2011.
Overtime: The City’s overtime budget totals $53,000 or approximately 0.5% of the total salary budget. The 2011 budget is a $5,600 decrease from 2010 based on actual projected expenditures in this area for 2010.
¬ The total cost for employee benefits is projected at $3.55 million for 2011. This is a $339,131, 10.6%, increase compared to the 2010 budget.
Benefit costs will increase by $33,817 in 2011 as a result of changes in 2010 and projected step increases in 2011. These benefit changes primarily affect social security and medicare tax contributions.
When preparing the 2011 Proposed Budget health benefit costs were projected to increase by $121,942, 7%. Since the time that the numbers were finalized for the budget, the Association of Washington Cities announced their final rates, which are slightly lower than those used in preparing the 2011 budget.

I would rather have a wage freeze now than to have to lay off many in the future. We need to seriously look at the 2 bonds that the capital improvements side of the city is paying for. I am concerned that these were not voted on and that the City Management and Council did not expect to dry up our reserves.

From the City Budget 2011 page 41
"The projected 2011 General Fund ending fund balance (reserves) is $3.6 million, with an additional $805,000 budgeted as a budget and insurance contingency. This complies with the City’s adopted reserve policy which basically requires that the General Fund maintain a reserve level of $3.8 million for cash flow and budget contingency purposes."
If falling below the set reserves level does not worry anyone, we are going to be here again every year scratching our heads saying "I thought we were going to maintain services."
Please write a letter to council, e comment, speak at council. Bring your ideas because even if we are the best City that will mean nothing next year if we did not stand up for services!

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