Letters to the Editor for May 2, 2011

By Jayson Jacoby / The Baker City Herald

School district is lean, not broken

To the editor:

When, even after thorough, transparent and honest effort individuals do not know our situation we must speak out.

Based upon a teacher with a master's degree and 17 years experience, which is our district average, payroll taxes and public retirement cost the district about 24.25 percent of salary. Medical insurance makes up 20.97 percent cost to the district.

Taxes and state mandated retirement costs are not benefits. Employee

portion of Public Employee Retirement and medical insurance costs are

benefits. These benefits are 26.97 percent of employee salary.

The children in our schools perform well in academics, the arts and athletics. We are lean but not broken.

Currently our pay is near the lowest for comparable work in our state.

For districts between 1,000 to 3,000 students we are 33rd of 33 in

beginning pay; for teachers with a master's degree we are 28th of 29;

for maximum salary we are 21st of 21. In short, we have reduced pay so

that we are the lowest paid in our category (data from the

Confederation of Oregon School Administrators - COSA).

Our insurance company is chosen by the state. We have capped the

dollars we will contribute and our employees pay the difference. Our

share is listed as 25th of 31 by COSA. Taken together, our teachers are

now about the lowest paid professionals in Oregon at their level.

As we lose our competitive edge to hire and retain the very best

workers we must accept that further cuts to district employees who have

already sacrificed more than their peers in the state are wrong.

The four-day student week as we see it is not a money saver and we have

never said it is. We do the four-day student week to provide more

instructional time for students with fewer teachers.

We will shrink as required and effectively use the resources allowed us

by our families and community. As for the Facilities Efficiency Report;

we have it. Indeed, each and every suggestion is implemented if it is

legal and cost-effective.

There is no evidence that Baker 5J people always vote no. In the same

way that the community supports the library we believe the community

will support schools.

Walter Wegener

Superintendent, Baker 5J

Vote 'Yes' to retain library services

To the editor:

The citizens of Baker County have long supported our Baker County

Library. It is the only independent Library District in Eastern Oregon.

The Library Journal has named it as one of the best small libraries in

the entire country!

We have five branch libraries, Haines, Halfway, Huntington, Richland

and Sumpter, plus the Bookmobile, which services Durkee and outlying

areas.

Pleas vote yes on May 17 to renew the local option levy. This will not

increase your taxes. It will guarantee that the wonderful services we

receive will continue.

Frances Burgess

Baker City

Health care can't be 'one-size-fits-all'

To the editor:

Most Americans are reasonably content with their current health care

insurance. They do have a few concerns, however, and there are a number

of proposals to address those concerns.

One such proposal is to encourage individuals to purchase their own

health care insurance by giving them the same tax break as those who

receive their coverage through their employer. If you are buying your

own health care insurance, rather than receiving it as part of a group,

you are better able to select a policy that will best fit your

individual situation.Owning your own policy will alsomean that you

don't lose your coverage when you change jobs; you simplytake it with

you to your next job.

Another idea is to allow individuals to purchase health insurance

across state lines. This is not possible now; you must purchase a

policy approved by your state government. By broadening the range of

possibilities, again you are more likely to find one that will best fit

your individual situation.

Americans are perfectly capable of making major financial decisions for

themselves. We decide what car to drive andwhat home to live in; we

buy our own groceries, clothing and what not. Given enough

alternatives, we can decide what health care policy is best for us.

On the other hand, there is no flexibility in Obamacare whatsoever. A

government bureaucratcomes up with a one-size-fits-all "best"

insurance plan, and willy-nilly, everyone is required by law to

purchase that policy by one means or another.Yet Democrats still seem

to have no clue as to why Obamacare remains so unpopular.

Peter Sundin

Baker City

Support our kids and community

To the editor:

Please join us in voting for Ballot Measure 1-54, the local option tax

to support our children and Baker Public Schools.It's an investment in

all of our futures.

These resources will help keep class sizes reasonable. Without Measure

1-54 larger class sizes would harm kids' ability to learn. Fewer

teachers and assistants would be available for kids who need help.

Without 1-54, sharp cuts would occur in programs like art, music and

libraries critical to children developing problem-solving skills and

creativity for the workplace. Help prevent damaging cuts in school

operations and facilities maintenance for safety.

Measure 1-54 is a temporary way to soften the blow of a 15-percent cut

in state funding while the economy recovers. The money stays here in

Baker.

The impact is small on property owners. Some pay nothing more; 40

percent pay less than $1 per month; and 75 percent of property owners

would pay less than $9 per month.

Our two adult children received an excellent education with training in

arts, music and sports from our public schools. We are so grateful

that Baker schools and teachers prepared and inspired them to graduate

from college and secure meaningful work.

Local Baker school kids return to serve as doctors, dentists, teachers

and other business people who create jobs for us and our children.We

need well-educated graduates to provide our health care, farming and

ranching services, and help solve community problems.

Please return your ballots, marked "yes" on Measure 1-54.Thank you.

Jim and Mary Tomlinson

Baker City

Tell me more about board candidates

To the editor:

Today (April 30) the mail-in ballot arrived for the important school election for May 17.

Little information on the candidates for school board positions has

reached my ears or eyes.For instance, since the 5J School Board very

recently voted to reduce our schools to a four days per week schedule

for next year, I would like to know which board members, or candidates

for board positions, home school their own children.

Carl R.Kostol

Baker City

13110693
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