School supporters rally for levy

Bells will keep ringing in the homes of residents of the Sequim School District.

Supporters of a replacement levy in the Feb. 9 election already waged a door-belling blitz on Saturday, Jan. 9.

Next: Telephoning voters, especially parents of Sequim students and people who are likely to vote for the measure.

And in the meantime, members of Citizens for Sequim Schools and their recruits will place fliers on car windshields, hand out buttons and information sheets, and post yard signs.

The stakes are hugely high, school board member Sarah Bedinger told a kickoff rally of about 70 people Jan. 6 in the Sequim Boys & Girls Club.

"If we do not pass this levy," she said about the tax that would replace one that expires next Dec. 31, "we will have a $3.2 million deficit" that might deepen by another $1 million if the state further trims school spending.

Mail back that ballot

One strategy will focus on students' parents, who will be targets of hand-addressed, hand-stamped postcards urging them to vote before Feb. 9. Ballots will be mailed to voters next Wednesday, Jan. 20.

The committee members hope parents - indeed, all voters in the district - won't leave their ballots on kitchen tables to languish until it's too late.

"We have to get every single parent to mail their ballot in," said Virginia O'Neil, like Bedinger a school board member and a director of Citizens for Sequim Schools, "and we can win this."

E. Michael McAleer, chairman of the citizens group, urged backers to follow a 3-foot rule:

"If you're within 3 feet of anyone, urge them to vote," he said.

Queried about schools

McAleer, a Realtor, said he's spoken recently with a man who'd like to move his company to the Dungeness Valley and with it 20 to 40 employees.

"'Tell me about your schools,'" McAleer quoted him as saying.

"In the first minute, that's all he asked me."

Professionals such as doctors and nurses who have school-age children will shun a community that doesn't support its schools, he said, noting that while Sequim ranks 50th among the state's 295 school districts in the value of its property base, its levy rate ranks 227th.

Even if the levy passes, Sequim schools still will be below both the Clallam County and the state averages of money spent per pupil, he said.

Rate rises yearly

The current levy - called an M&O levy because it funds maintenance and operations - raises 77 cents per $1,000 of real property assessed valuation. If passed, the new levy that will replace the old tax would rise over three years:

_ 98 cents per $1,000 in 2011

_ $1.19 per $1,000 in 2012

_ $1.40 per $1,000 in 2013.

It would raise $4.05 million the first year, $4.90 million the second year and $5.78 million the third year.

Some district homeowners 61 years old and older can be exempt from paying the tax, at least until the properties are sold.

Call Clallam County Assessor Pam Rushton, 417-2204, for details.

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