News

Drop in property values won't affect school levy

Change without change regarding a big chunk of change.

Sequim's school board of directors agreed that, even though estimates by the county assessor show property values in the county will drop by 1 percent, the board's three-year levy proposal going out to voters in February should collect the same dollar amount.

The board had a chance to change that Friday morning when county elections officials asked the school board to change the levy proposal resolution to reflect a new mil rate on the ballot.

Sequim's school levy proposal would generate $4.05 million in 2011, $4.9 million in 2012 and $5.78 million in 2013 from local taxpayers 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 months and years.

When the board unanimously agreed to the proposal in November, the mil rate - the rate taxpayers pay per $1,000 of assessed property valuation - was estimated at about 87 cents (or about $175 for a $200,000 home), a 6-percent jump from the previous year.

Those projections were based on numbers from the assessor's office from October, said school district finance manager Brian Lewis.

New numbers from that office, Lewis said Friday, instead show a 1-percent drop in values of properties across the school district and a projected 2-percent drop in 2010.

"(The mil rate) could be completely different by the time we get to the third year of the levy," Lewis said.

The board agreed that, despite the change in the mil rate number, Sequim schools still need the levy dollar amounts they agreed to earlier this year.

The only thing that changes from the board's decision, superintendent Bill Bentley said, is the wording on the ballot in February.

"It is really a transparency issue," Bentley said.

"Nothing's changed; our students' needs haven't changed," said board member Virginia O'Neil.

"This (mil rate) is still a whole lot less (than other districts) and our kids still have needs," board member John Bridge added.

The decision comes just days after Gov. Christine Gregoire announced cuts to education in her 2010-2011 supplemental budget, trimming about $600,000 from Sequim's programs.

Hit hardest are the earlier grades, as Gregoire's proposal slashes K-3 staffing (about three positions in Sequim), Highly Capable Program funds and Initiative 728 that lowers class sizes.



Reach Michael Dashiell at miked@sequimgazette.com.

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