Levy group preps for key ballot drive

Sign-waving. Sign-placing. Phone calls and Power Point presentations. Breakfast with Santa.

It's beginning to sound a lot like levy time.

The activities are numerous and the need is great, school advocates say, as they prepare to ask voters to approve a three-year school maintenance and operations levy proposal in February.

Citizens for Sequim Schools, a grass-roots political group whose sole goal is supporting passage of such levy proposals, has plenty of work for its volunteers between now and the February election day.

"We're trying to delegate a lot of things out," said Sarah Bedinger, one of five group board members. She also is the Sequim school board president.

"A lot of what we're doing is similar to what we were doing with the last campaign (in 2006)," she said. "Some of the opportunities are like helping out at the Santa Breakfast, doorbelling, putting up signs, waving signs, some phone calling to parents."

Work the

civic circuit

For Michael McAleer, president of Citizens For Sequim Schools, that also means promoting the cause by way of PowerPoint presentations to civic groups such as local Kiwanis, Rotary and Soroptimist clubs.

He said the presentations outline what a levy is (for citizens who may not understand how the state funds public education), details how

Sequim's per-student spending and levy support compares to other school districts, shows how much money is being asked for and explains what levy dollars fund.

The three-year, $14.7 million levy proposal would generate $4.05 million in 2011, $4.9 million in 2012 and $5.78 million in 2013 from local taxpayers.

Classes and curricula

Levy dollars are used to reduce class sizes, pay for curriculum upgrades, purchase supplies and materials, upgrade facilities and restore a number of programs the district has cut in recent years, school officials say.

One of the challenges to promoting this levy is reaching the retired citizens in the community whose children or grandchildren may not attend Sequim schools.

"We've gotten great support from retirees (in the past)," McAleer said. "There's a disconnect unless they're reminded. We're just trying to ask them, 'How would you want voters to support your grandkids?'"

Breaking the barriers

McAleer said supporting schools is an issue that

crosses a number of lines that separate one citizen group from another, be it economic, political or cultural.

"This is a nonpartisan issue ... affecting all ages groups," he said.

"It's tough to prioritize in economic times like these ... (but) the one institution that levels the playing field is public education."

McAleer said the number of Citizens for Sequim Schools volunteers is about 40 who attend meetings and another 60 or so who are on a group phone/e-mail list.

In 2006, Citizens for

Sequim Schools had volunteers working a phone bank in Blyn for weeks on end. That's not going to happen this year, Bedinger said.

Reminder to register

Instead, the group is asking volunteers to call parents via their cell phones from the Sequim Boys & Girls Club, reminding parents to 1) get registered and 2) get their ballots in.

"It's not as if we have 20 people per committee," Bedinger said. "We are asking folks to step up, but being respectful of their time."

Joining Bedinger and McAleer on the Citizens for Sequim Schools board are Dave Brasher, Kristin Glenn and Virginia O'Neil, a

Sequim school board director.

"We've been through a few campaigns (and) worked for school-related causes," Bedinger said of the board.

The group already hosted a fundraiser golf tournament in September in Sequim and has planned the annual Breakfast With Santa, also a Citizens for Sequim Schools fundraiser, on Sunday,

Dec. 6.

A scheduling conflict pushed the date to a Sunday - normally the breakfast is on a Saturday - so the group extended the meal an hour to make it easier for church-goers to attend.

Reach Michael Dashiell at

Key Sequim schools levy/Citizens for

Sequim Schools dates

_ Dec. 6 - Breakfast With Santa, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. at

Sequim High School cafeteria, 601 N. Sequim Ave.

_ Dec. 8 - Citizens for

Sequim Schools campaign meeting, 7 p.m., Sequim Boys & Girls Club, 400 W. Fir St.

_ Jan. 11 - Mail-in, online voter registration deadline for February election

_ Jan. 22 - Ballots mailed

_ Feb. 1 - In-person voter registration deadline

_ Feb. 9 - Election Day (ballots must be postmarked or dropped off at county courthouse or Sequim Vehicle Licensing drop box by 8 p.m.)

Levy proposal by the numbers

Sequim Gazette staff

Current levy spending

Certificate staff salary and benefits $1,930,000

Transportation $120,000

Curriculum $160,000

Technology $160,000

Facilities $180,000

Extracurricular $340,000

Nonacademic staff salary and benefits $130,000

Student materials and supplies $220,000

Total $3,240,000

Year 1 spending (2010-2011 school year)

Year one allocates expenditures consistent with the current levy year with additional funding allocated to restore some of the programs that were either eliminated or reduced in the recent budget reductions. Suggested allocations include:

Previous levy spending areas (see above) $3,240,000

Teaching staff to lower class size $380,000

and provide extended day program

(Note: Due to recent funding reductions, the district reduced certified teaching staff. As a result, class size in all buildings has increased. Additionally, teaching staff assigned to provide support to struggling students has been reduced.

(If additional funding were provided, this proposal would allocate an additional staff member at Greywolf, Haller, the middle school and SHS. Staff would be assigned to support student achievement and meet the individual needs of students. An extended day program would be offered with transportation provided. The estimated cost of the transportation is $30,000.)

Curriculum $100,000

Curriculum allocation funds the purchase of textbooks and materials.

Technology $170,000

The technology allocation is utilized to support existing infrastructure and to replace aging equipment.

Materials and supplies (cost of living adjustment) $10,000

Year 2 spending (2011-2012 school year)

Year one allocations are retained. Projected revenue losses for the 2011-2012 year include loss of federal stimulus money ($800,000) and state allocations ($400,000). The levy dollars would be allocated to retain existing programs that include:

Special programs teaching staff (8 positions) $560,000

Special programs support staff (4.65 positions) $180,000

Teacher contract days $210,000

Supplies and materials $30,000

Special programs contracted services $175,000

Highly Capable Program $26,000

Food service $22,000

Year 3 spending (2012-2013 school year)

Year one and two allocations are retained. Additional levy allocation would support the restoration of the following programs:

Textbooks and teaching supplies $120,000

Technology support $103,000

Maintenance of facilities $147,000

(Includes maintenance of existing facilities and salary allocations for custodial staff.)

Cost of living increases, supplies

and extracurricular $30,000

Highly Capable Program staff $70,000

School nurse restoration $70,000

Counseling staff $70,000

Business office classified staff $70,000

School resource officer $50,000

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