State Shared-Work Program Provides an Alternative to Layoffs

washington-employment-security-department-squarelogoFacing layoffs in this year’s budget? You may want to consider the Employment Security Department’s (ESD) Shared-Work Program. Through the program, employers can reduce the hours of permanent employees, who can then collect partial unemployment benefits to replace a portion of their lost wages. Even better, the federal government will cover more than 92 percent of shared-work benefits through June 2015. Normally public employers have to pay all benefits back to the state when their laid off employees collect benefits, but this gives you a break. You can retain skilled staff while having a little breathing room to develop a long-term financial strategy. Even if you’re not facing layoffs, it may be a helpful program to publicize to businesses in the community, since the shared-work option is available to private businesses as well. For full program details, check out the ESD website.

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Privacy Rights, the Public Records Act, and Unanswered Questions

In a highly anticipated court decision that was issued recently, the Washington State Court of Appeals had an opportunity to address important unanswered questions related to what privacy rights a public official has under the Public Records Act (PRA). The decision is Nissen v. Pierce County, ___ Wn. App. ___ (Sept. 9, 2014). Unfortunately, the court passed on the privacy issues and sent the case back to the trial court for further fact-finding and consideration. Continue reading

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Budget Forecasting – Revenue Projections Not Easy to Develop

Dollar signIt is budget time again and most of you are working on revenue forecasts that will be used to develop the budget for the next fiscal period.  Accurate revenue forecasts are essential to successful budget execution. If the forecast grossly overestimates the amount of future revenues, the end result will be a deficit, with the potential for mid-year spending cuts.  On the other hand, if the revenue forecast is too conservative, it forces a reduction in spending on government services and results in a budget surplus. In this situation, the cuts may have been in the very services that citizens would like to maintain or expand. Continue reading

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De-Annexation of Property from a City – How Does That Happen?

Every once in a while we get asked how property may be “de-annexed” – removed from city boundaries. Whenever I’m asked this question, I say in my response that it rarely occurs. It’s a lot easier in Washington State for property to get annexed to a city than it is for the opposite to occur. This post discusses why that is the case. Continue reading

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The Case for Asset Management in Public Works

Tacoma's Murray Morgan Bridge, courtesy of Scott Hingst.

Tacoma’s Murray Morgan Bridge, courtesy of Scott Hingst.

This is a guest post from Toby Rickman, 2014 APWA-WA President, and Deputy Director of Public Works for Pierce County.  This post is adapted from an article in APWA-WA’s latest issue of PUBLICworks Magazine.

We all know that advanced societies are built on the foundation of modern infrastructure. Our communities rely on infrastructure more than ever to maintain their quality of life, allow us to get around, and support economic development and job creation. We inherited a legacy of excellent infrastructure from previous generations who were willing to invest in their community.

But infrastructure in Washington State continues to deteriorate as communities vote down transportation packages and other infrastructure proposals. Infrastructure like the interstate system, which was built after World War II, is reaching the end of its lifecycle. Bridges are aging and we don’t have the resources to replace them all. Water and sewer systems are getting older and many have not saved the money to replace the pipes and pumps. The 2013 ASCE Report Card for America’s Infrastructure indicated that the United States needs to invest $3.6 trillion in our infrastructure to restore it – that’s $11,400 per person.

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Yakima’s Election System Deemed in Violation of Voting Rights Act

Voting courtesy of thomas.

Voting courtesy of thomas.

A federal district court judge recently ruled that the City of Yakima’s city council election system violates Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §1973.  Observing that no Latino has ever been elected to the city council in the 37-year history of the current system of electing city councilmembers, despite Latinos making up a third of the city’s voting-age population, the court concluded that Yakima’s city council election system violates the Voting Rights Act by diluting the Latino community vote and blocking representation by Latinos. Continue reading

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Two Newly Updated Webpages Put Planning Reference Information at Your Fingertips

GIS Overlay Map, San Bernardino County, CA

GIS Overlay Map, San Bernardino County, CA

As the “comprehensive” part of “comprehensive planning” implies, planning involves addressing a wide array of interrelated community needs including housing, transportation, parks, public places, environmental protection, community and economic development, and the infrastructure to support them. The needs and aspirations for various community goods are ever-evolving. So those engaged in planning must have at least a working understanding of a variety of subjects. They must also be able communicate, and preferably illustrate, complex concepts.  Survival as a planner requires the ability to become quickly conversant on new issues and tools. That requires quick access to relevant resources. Continue reading

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