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Schools to seek 4-year M&O levy

It was near the end of a three-hour school board workshop last week that board president Sarah Bedinger reached the tipping point.

Already agreeing to pursue a four-year maintenance and operations levy that they hoped would bring financial solvency to the district, board members were debating the merits of two sets of dollar figures:

_ On one hand, a levy that appeals most to voters

_ On the other, what the district really needs to educate its students.

"I'm past that point," Bedinger chimed in. "I'm tired of hearing parents say, 'My kid doesn't get what they need in this district.'"



Hike likely

The board and Citizens for Sequim Schools, the grass-roots group supporting passage of so-called M&O levies, are expected to ask voters to approve a four-year levy proposal in February.

As of the end of last week, dollar figures hadn't been worked out; board officials were expected to finalize the proposal on Nov. 10 (see box).

But the indication from Bedinger and other board members is that this proposal will be more than the $3.2M-per-year levy the district currently collects.

For one, Bedinger wants to see her board and other school advocates ask for more than what the district can "get by."

"Someone needed to say it," Bedinger said following the meeting. "This is what we need."



Plugging gaps

District superintendent Bill Bentley presented board members with an array of four-year levy proposals at the Nov. 6 workshop. Plans ranged from maintaining Sequim's current collection rate to those that compensate for expected revenue shortfalls in state and federal dollars in 2011.

While the district may spend some funds from its reserves for one-time issues - $70,000 to replace an aging phone system this year, for example - levy dollars are expected to cover programs that last year to year.

Even if voters pass the newest levy proposal, the district has other financial burdens looming. Sequim's aging fleet of buses and dilapidated school building roofs may mean the district asks for a transportation or capital projects bond - or both - in the near future.

Dave Blake, a former school board director, said the district may be able to compensate for the aging bus fleet, for example, within the new levy proposal.

After debating between a three- or four-year proposal, directors agreed they'd like to see the schools funded better than in previous years.

"I want to go for an amount for our schools that we can upgrade and be stable at that funding level," board director Virginia O'Neil said.

"I feel like people want to improve our schools and they're going to vote for it," Bedinger added.



Reach Michael Dashiell at miked@sequimgazette.com.



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