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Voters boost tax for schools
Sequim School District levy proponents are all smiles after getting a look at Tuesday night's special election results, showing a 60-40 split in favor of the three-year, $14.7 million proposal. They are, from left, board director Sarah Bedinger, superintendent Bill Bentley, board director Virginia O'Neil and board president Bev Horan. Sequim Gazette photo by Michael Dashiell
by MICHAEL DASHIELL
Sequim School District teachers, administrators, students and their parents can breathe a little easier.
On Tuesday evening, voters were approving a three-year, $14.7 million school maintenance and operations levy that helps reduce class sizes, upgrade curricula, buy supplies and materials, refurbish facilities and restore a number of programs that district officials cut in recent months and years.
The margin was 6,775 to 4,494, or 60 percent to 40 percent and included ballots that had been received by the Clallam County Auditor as of Tuesday afternoon. Of the 23,049 ballots mailed to voters in the school district, 11,269 had been returned, leaving a possible but unlikely 11,780 ballots in the mail.
The levy victory almost certainly will stand, said Auditor Patty Rosand.
“Traditionally, you’re not going to see a change of more than 1 or 2 percent.”
Ballots will be tallied again on Friday and at least once more next week. The auditor must certify the election by Feb. 24.
The results made levy backers and school officials ecstatic as they read the numbers in the Clallam County Courthouse.
“Now we can plan for the future,” said school Superintendent Bill Bentley.
“We are grateful to our community and for all the people who worked so hard to make this happen.”
The levy generates $4.05 million in 2011, $4.9 million in 2012 and $5.78 million in 2013 from local taxpayers.
Property owners pay 98 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation — about $245 from owners of a $250,000 house — in the first year of the levy.
Taxpayers will pay $1.19 per $1,000 of property valuation in the second year of the levy and $1.40 per $1,000 in the third; the rate may change with fluctuations in assessed real property valuation in 2012 and 2013, although the total dollar figure collected remains intact.
In recent weeks, the proposal received backing from numerous community groups, from the medical community to real estate agents to politicians, including five Sequim city councilors, Clallam County Commissioner Steve Tharinger and Kevin De Wege, state representative for the 24th District.
Where the money goes
In the first year of the levy proposal, about $400,000 would go to hiring additional full-time staff to lower class sizes and add an extended-day program (after-school instruction), add about $170,000 to technology upgrades and $100,000 in curriculum purchases such as textbooks and other materials.
The second year sees a jump in collection to compensate for expected revenue shortfalls in state and federal dollars in 2011. In previous interviews, Sequim schools superintendent Bill Bentley said he and staffers aren’t sure if either Initiative 728 (state) or stimulus (federal) dollars will continue into 2011.
The second year sees levy dollars pay for eight staffing and nearly five full-time support positions (about $740,000), reinstate some teacher contract days plus boosts to the district’s Highly Capable and food service programs.
In year three, levy dollars restore the district nurse position, add $120,000 in textbook and teaching supplies, add a counseling position and school resource officer, put nearly $150,000 into maintenance of existing school facilities and boost the district’s technology hardware and software by more than $100,000, among other items.
Reach Michael Dashiell at email@example.com.