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Quincy, California
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March 12, 2014     Feather River Bulletin
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Bulletin, Record, Progressive, Reporter Wednesday, March 12, 2014 9B COMMUNITY PERSPECTIVE 00School spending for our kids: How much is not enough? WHERE I STAND RON LOGAN PRESIDENT, PLUMAS COOUNTY TEACHERS ASSOCIATION Is Plumas Unified School District spending enough on our children's education? We don't think so. Public school financing in California can be complex, and is almost constantly changing. Understanding a few basic principles is helpful. The state allocates a certain dollar amount per pupil. This number is then multiplied by the number of pupils in a district, average daffy attendance (ADA) is used and the funding is allocated: There are minor adjustments for specific programs or special cases. There are also two main categories of districts: those that receive funding based on the above ADA formula, called Revenue Limit, and those whose property tax revenues exceed that limit, called Basic Aid or Excess Tax. Plumas Unified School District landed in this Basic Aid category several years ago when enrollment was declining and property taxes were increasing. For years the district's board and business office were concerned that, due to declining property taxes, we would "fall back" into Revenue Limit status. This would require millions of dollars in reserves to prepare for a "soft landing." Plumas Unified is still in this Basic Aid category as the state transitions into its new Local Control Funding Formula. Plumas Unified never fell back, and all indications are that it won't. With property tax revenues leveling off or increasing, and with the state's recent billion-dollar funding Utilization of woody WHERE I STAND MIKE McKEE and JONATHAN KUSEL SIERRA INSTITUTE FOR COMMUNITY AND ENVIRONMENT The densely forested mountains of Plumas County are part of what makes this region of California truly unique. Our mountains, home to hundreds of miles of hiking trails and filled with clear streams and cold lakes, offer a much-welcomed break from the hustle of more urban parts of the state. The forests on these mountains provide a vast array of other services, like large swaths of intact wildlife habitat, clean drinking water, carbon sinks, breathtaking viewsheds and a variety of forest products. Plumas County depends on these in a number of ways, not the least of which is the fact that tourist dollars and the sale of forest products provide many members of our community with a steady income. Our fellow Californians living downstream are equally dependent on our forest -- whether they know it or not -- because the Feather River watershed produces critical hydropower and provides more than 25 percent of the state's drinking wafer. There is little disagreement that our mountains are beautiful. The hard truth, however, is that our forests, like many others in the Sierra, are dangerously overstocked due in large part to more than 100 years of successful fire suppression. Forests thatwere once kept relatively open by frequent fires are now full of increase to education in the most recent budget, the future of school funding looks still complex, but financially promising. Plumas Unified prepared for this potential "fall" by stashing away millions of dollars each year. It has used several methods to accomplish this. The district routinely spent less than the state-required 55 percent of the current expense of education on classroom teachers and aides. Last year PUSD spent under 51 percent, and had to.request a waiver to avoid losing nearly $800,000 in state funding. Elementary classroom aide positions have been eliminated. Teachers have watched as our colleagues -- qualified, energetic young teachers -- were laid off and those of us who were left were asked to teach new subjects or grade levels, and take on more students and more extra duties, and be on more committees. We have watched as Our salary schedule has remained essentially unchanged for the past eight years, leaving PUSD in the past and not providing a path to the future. We have watched as courses and programs were cut, and high school vice principal positions were eliminated. One striking trend emerges from Plumas Unified's recent budgets. For the past several years, the district's multiyear projections show an anticipated decrease in total reserves, while the ending balances actually increase throughout each year's reports. When decisions are made based on declining reserves in multiyear projections, a large reserve is a good thing. But how much is really necessary, especially when ending balances continue to increase? The state of California requires school districts to maintain at least a 3 percent reserve for economic uncertainties. For PUSD this is approximately $700,000. School Services of California, in a publication dated Oct. 28, 2011, has other unified districts at 11.28 percent. For PUSD this would be approximately $2,600,000. The PUSD board, recognizing some additional risk factors, last year adopted 17.5 percent plus the state required 3 percent, for a total of approximately $4,600,000. The district's projected reserve in June 2014 is $10,100,000. Yes, that is more than $10 million, or $5.5 million more than their own policy! Do we want Plumas Unified to move into the future financially sound? Absolutely! But we also want what is best for our classrooms and our " students today, and into the future. A $10 million budget reserve is excessive, unnecessary and fiscally unjustified. The business of public education is unlike any other business. We respect the board's efforts to do what's best for students. One could view this multimillion-dollar reserve as a fiscal health insurance policy, when, in fact, it may be ruining the health of the district and our local schools. We want fiscal policies that put today's classrooms first. Plumas Unified's longstanding and current practice of building and maintaining this excessive reserve leaves not enough for the best possible education and safety of our students and our children today. renewables in Plumas offers many benefits fuel. Northern Sierra forests are three to four times as dense as they were 100 years ago. While our forests may look healthy to an untrained eye, the many small trees packed closely together are at high risk Of burning. Last summer's fire season -- recall the sobering images from the 257,000-acre Rim Fire -- and our own local events, the Chips and Moonlight fires, dramatically highlight the implications of overly dense forests. The Quincy Library Group, Plumas County Fire Safe Council and forest managers have dedicated a great deal of time and energy toward finding effective ways to reduce the heavy fuel load in our forests. At the state level, one of the recently proposed solutions drawing a lot of LE TTER.S TO attention is the utilization of forest biomass as a means to generate heat and electricity. In 2012, the state Legislature passed Senate Bill 1122, which calls for 50 megawatts of power to be generated from sustainably harvested forest biomass. We at the Sierra Institute for Community and Environment are fully supportive of federal, state and local efforts to promote the sustainable use of biomass because we believe responsible utilization of forest biomass will provide multiple benefits to residents of Plumas County. Furthermore, we believe efforts here in the northern Sierra can serve as an example for similar communities in areas with abundant forest resources. One of the primary benefits of using forest biomass to generate heat and electricity is that it represents a significant step toward reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire. Removing small-diameter trees and slash generated either as part of a timber harvest or vegetative management project reduces the fuel load in the woods. It does so by increasing vertical and horizontal space between mature trees. Under more open forest cohditions, wildfires burn less severely, which reduces tree mortality and causes less damage to soft. Additionally, forests with a more open structure allow fireflghters to gain a toehold in their fforts to contain and extinguish fires. The Sierra Institute for Community and Environment also supports utilizing forest biomass to generate heat and electricity because of the THE EDITOR economic opportunities associated with bioenergy. Plumas County does not have access to natural gas pipelines and most large institutions in this region are dependant on fuel oil or propane to meet their heating needs. Fuel off and propane are expensive and subject to market volatility, and as a result place considerable financial strain on already fight budgets. Forest biomass is both locally abundant and significantly less expensive than most fossil fuels. The Sierra Institute has calculated that switching some of our major public facilities with high heat demands to biomass-fired boilers could reduce fossil fuel consumption in the county by as much as See Renewable, page 12B Guidelines for Letters All letters must contain an address and a phone number. We publish only one letter per week per person and only one letter per person per month regarding the same subject. We do not publish third-party, anonymous, or open letters. Letters must be limited to a maximum of 300 words. Thee editor will cut any letter in excess of 300 words. The deadline is Friday at 3p.m. (Deadlines may change due to holidays.) Letters may be taken to any of Feather Publishing's offices, sent via fax to 283-3952, or e-mailed to dmcdonald@plumasnews.com. Help celebrate birthday The Meadow Valley Schoolhouse will be celebrating 100 years on Sunday, Aug. 17, from 3-6 p.m. I know there are many past students, parents and a few past teachers still living in the county, but We need your help in contacting those out of our area. It would be greatly appreciated. ff you have any pictures or memorabilia that you are willing to loan or donate, we would love to display them. You can even put something in writing of your fond memories -- or not-so-f0nd memories -- that could be read during the celebration. ff you attend you might be amazed to see your picture already on the walls. Please spread the word and help make the 100th birthday of the Meadow Valley Schoolhouse a success. If you send anything, please specify if it's to be donated or loaned, and include your name, address and phone number. Committee member, Donna McElroy, 283-2896, P.O. Box 10 Meadow Valley, CA 95956-0010. Donna McElroy Meadow Valley Iditarod theme unfortunate I am saddened to hear that Quincy Elementary is using a program called Idita-Read, based on the Iditarod, as the theme for this year's Reading Night. Had the organizers been familiar with the issues of abuse surrounding the sled dog industry, perhaps another theme would have been chosen. The Iditarod Dog Sled Race is a grueling 1,000 mile race. The historical supply trail took at least three weeks to complete; the current race which follows this trail is finished in as few as 8 days. As many as one-third of the dogs are unable to complete the course due to injury or death --120 -140 dogs have died during the race since it began in 1973. A recent study indicated that 81 percent of a sampling of 59 dogs who completed one Iditarod race developed respiratory problems. Pulled muscles, stress fractures, foot bruises and gastric ulcers are also pervasive. Irresponsible breeders and hoarders in the sled dog industry make sled dog racing even more disturbing. Since 1973, a boom in breeding sled dogs for racing has occurred. The average musher has 90 - 100 dogs. One breeder bred 300 dogs to acquire five racers. Dogs are tethered individually to small, open shelters on 4- to 5-foot chains, exposing them to the severe Arctic climate. Frostbite can result in gangrene and death. Some dogs spend the vast majority of their lives tethered and starved to the point that they eat rocks which break their teeth or become obstructions in their gastrointestinal tracts. Shooting, drowning, or bludgeoning surplus animals to death is common. It is my hope that students are guided by their parents to realize the true costs of dogsled racing. The HSUS, ASPCA, and The Sled Dog Action Coalition have many articles on this industry. Please read them. Faith Strailey Quincy Story was flawed, biased Your article: "Couple disrupts PSREC meeting" was flawed and biased reporting that unfairly put my wife and I in a bad light. We did not "disrupt" PSREC's meeting. Bob Marshall, PSREC's General Manager, rudely interrupted my wife and raised his voice at us during her comments, demanding I stop filming and threatening to call the sheriff. This can be verified in the video posted at my organization's website StopSmartMeters.Org. The law states you can video any place you are allowed to be. We were allowed to speak at the meeting and there were no signs saying "no photography." Nothing in PSREC's bylaws prohibits filming. PSREC themselves used a telephoto lens to film inside our home the day after we were disconnected. What is PSREC trying to hide from the public anyway? Whether or not Mr. Marshall agrees with it, the facts are that his meters emit radiation that the World Health Organization says may cause cancer. We have never threatened Mr. Marshall or PSREC. Allegations to the contrary are false. The reality is that PSREC is being disruptive and threatening. We have paid for our electricity usage, yet PSREC has left us in the dark for two weeks now, simply because we refuse to pay an arbitrary and punitive fee for an analog meter that others in our community use for free. My physician has written to PSREC that my medical condition requires avoidance of "smart" meter radiation. CA Public Utilities Code 453(b) requires utilities not charge more for a medical condition. PSREC must respect state law and reconnect us without delay. In our all-electric house, the last two weeks have been a struggle to feed ourselves, stay warm and light the place at night. Should utilities have the right to disqonnect someone's essential utilities because of their political beliefs or medical condition? Josh Hart Clio Unfair treatment Why do we need RF or "Smart" electric meters? Technology developments are outpacing our ability to know for sure whether or not they are safe. Tobacco, lead paint and asbestos were assumed to be safe. Isn't it better to.err on the side of caution? And shouldn,t the burden of proof fall on the technology developer or implementer to prove the technology is safe before it's put to use? PSREC has been installing RF meters without providing any information on the potential health risks. And when someone says "No thank you," they are charged for the very same analog meter usage that other co-op members have with no charge. Other members are allowed to "self-read" their meters. The Harts, residents of Clio, are charged an "Opt-out" fee. According to Mr. Marshall's quote in the paper, the Opt-out fee is needed because it isn't fair for co-op members to cover the cost of sending a. meter reader to the Hart's. But there's already another option in place - self-reading. It's curious that when it's not cost-effective for PSREC to switch an analog to an RF meter, there's no fee for h.aving an analog meter. When it's in the member's interest to have an analog meter, there is an "Opt-out" fee. I like to think that a rural electric cooperative would be more responsive to its customers' needs than a large, urban utility. But even PG&E hasn't shut off the power to its customers who refuse to pay an extra fee for an analog meter. Whether you believe in the harm caused by RF meters or not, you should be concerned by the actions of your electric utility. Shutting off electricity when the electric bill is being paid? Installing potentially harmful technology with no warning? Charging members differently? It doesn't seem right. Jennifer Lacy Clio City Council doesn't get it For a decade the community of Portola has been in a Dark Age from a City Council that did not get it. They did not understand the value of diversity, public participation or volunteerism. The future of Portola is in the hands of the people. Concerned citizens like Trent Saxton are questioning authority. We have another movement toward enlightenment after the resignations of Ian Kaiser, Juliana Mark and Mike Matus. We have lost a new city manager who gave hope to Portola for a change in direction, the enlightenment continued with resignations from public officials that questioned the ethics of our elected officials. They got it. A fear of change continues from a majority on the new council. In this majority are two of the old gentlemen (Larrieu and Powers) who approved expendituresthat have lead the city to not-affordable public services, and the new lady (Morton) who does not understand civil rights. They dropped the ball that Mr. Saxton had rolling. They believed that the LAFCo fee disbursement should be approached differently. The recommendation of City Attorney Gross followed the goal of that majority. It is far from open and transParent See Letters, page 12B Contact your elected officials... PLUMAS COUNTY SUPERVISORS - 520 Main Street, Room 309, Quincy, CA 95971; (530) 283-6170; FAX: (530) 283-6288; E-Mail: pcbs@countyofplumas.com. Individual supervisors can also be e-mailed from links on the county website, countyofplumas.com PRESIDENT - Barack Obama, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Washington, D.C. 20500. (202) 456-1414. Fax: 202-456-2461. E-mail: whitehouse.gov/contact/ U.S. SENATOR - Dianne Feinstein (D), 331 Hart Senate Office Bldg., Washington, D.C. 20510. (202) 224-3841; FAX: 202-228-3954; TrY/TDD: i(202) 224-2501. District Office: One Post Street, Suite 2450, San Francisco, CA 94104; Phone: (415) 393-0707; Fax: (415) 393-0710 Website: feinstein.senate.gov. U.S. SENATOR - Barbara Boxer (D). District Office: 501 1 St., Suite 7-600 Sacramento, CA 95814. (916) 448-2787; FAX (916) 448-2563; OR 112 Hart Bldg., Washington, D.C. 20510. (202) 224-3553. FAX (202) 228-0454. U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, 1ST DIST. - Doug LaMalfa. 506 Cannon HOB, i Washington, D C 20515. (202) 225-3076. lamalfa.house.gov. DISTRICT OFFICES: 1453 Downer St., Suite #A, OroviUe, CA 95965; 2885 Chum Creek R., Suite #C, Redding, CA 96002. STATE SENATOR, 1st DIST. - Ted Gaines. State Capitol, Room 3070, Sacramento, CA 95814. (916) 651-4001, FAX: (916) 324-2680. E1 Dorado Hills Constituent Service Center: 4359 Town Center Boulevard, Suite 112, E1 Dorado Hills, CA 95762. (916) 933-7213, FAX (916) 933-7234; Redding Constituent Service Center: 1670 Market St., Suite 244, Redding, CA 96001, (530) 225-3142, FAX (530) 225-3143. STATE ASSEMBLYMAN, 1ST DIST. - Brian Dahle, State Capitol, Room 2174, Sacramento, CA 94249, (916) 319-2001; FAX (916) 319-2103. District Office, 2080 Hemsted Dr., Ste. #110, Redding, CA 96002 (530) 223-6300, FAX (530) 223-6737. GOVERNOR Jerry Brown, office of the Governor, State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814. Website: gov.ca.gov/ (916) 445-2841. FAX: (916) 558-3160. } 1