Representatives of businesses from throughout Issaquah joined Mayor Mary Lou Pauly and Issaquah School District Superintendent Ron Thiele at the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on Jan. 10 at Pickering Barn.
Both Pauly and Thiele gave presentations on 2018’s city and school district operations and outlined some of the work that will be coming up in 2019.
Issaquah Mayor Mary Lou Pauly said that with a growing economy and population, the city has been working on a strategic plan and are now in the final stages of identifying specific actions the city can implement to meet various goals. It’s not about changing the city’s values, but prioritizing their goals in order to make sure the city’s core values are realized.
To that end, Mayor Pauly also said the city needs a more sustainable financial plan in terms of managing revenue collected and how it funds capital projects. The city ended 2018 with a healthy ending fund balance, she said, but capital and operations shortfalls are projected for future years. The city council already has begun discussions on long-range capital financing plans to address fiscal sustainability, she said.
Mayor Pauly also gave an update on the Southeast 62nd extension project that has been in the works for two years. The audience cheered when Pauly announced that the city plans to open the road this month. The largest capital project in city history, Pauly said the city worked with partners so the city only invested $4 million of the $44 million total.
On jobs, Pauly said the city has had an average of 622 new jobs every year and that the goal is to bring that to an average of 1,000. Increasing living wage jobs and closing the gap for cost of living is important, she said, because many businesses can’t retain employees due to the distance needed to commute.
Following Pauly, Thiele provided an update on the current status of the school district, an update to the 2016 construction bonds and an overview of the implementation of the new Washington state funding system.
Thiele introduced his talk by congratulating his school board, as it recently was recognized as a board of distinction.
Thiele highlighted the major advancements and changes made in the district throughout 2018, such as the three levies that were approved, the new high school schedule changes and mental health support.
Over the last year, ISD has launched a partnership with Swedish Hospital and Friends of Youth to provide mental health counseling to elementary and secondary students throughout the district.
Thiele said one of the advancements he’s most excited about is the new equity policy the school district adopted. The new equity policy is designed to promote an environment and culture that is committed to every student having the opportunity to reach their full potential through educational equity.
He said he’s hoping that through the new equity policy, all students will receive the same opportunities.
“We have opportunity gaps and we need to address that,” he said. “While we have one of the state’s highest on-time graduation rates [at 92.7 percent], I think we can do better.”
Concluding on capital projects, Thiele said nearly all of the 2016 bond projects are completed.
Some of the 2016 bond projects include the Cougar Ridge expansion, Discovery Elementary expansion/remodel, Endeavor expansion/remodel, Pine Lake Middle School rebuild, and the Sunset expansion project.
Thiele said one of his goals for 2019 is to secure the land to build “Elementary School #17.”
“We’ve been wanting to create this elementary school for a long time. We’ve made a bid on the land and we’re hoping to make this school a reality soon,” he said.