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School levies hit the streets
by ROSS COYLE
John Bridge and Jon Eekhoff make a colorful team as they wander down Willow Road. They discuss everything from football to recreation and their work as teachers, stopping periodically to ring a stranger’s doorbell.
Bridge and Eekhoff are helping campaign with Citizens for Sequim Schools, the community group working to raise awareness and support of the proposed school district tax levy and transportation vehicle fund levy. Citizens for Sequim Schools is responsible for the yellow signs that have come to festoon various businesses, cars and lawns in town.
Campaigning for the levy is in full swing, with the Citizens for Sequim Schools working hard to have their voices heard in favor of the proposal. Efforts to promote the levy — an educational programs & operations levy for $5.78 million for each of the next four years — have included sign waving over the past week and organized picketing on the corner of Sequim Avenue and Washington Street, and even door-to-door canvassing to inform citizens who may be looking at ballots and wondering, “What is this?”
The response to the levy, according to CSS members, has been mostly positive, and opposition is directed toward the taxes and not the school. Bridge says the issue is pretty cut and dried. Out of the 20 people that they reached while canvassing the streets, Eekhoff says that the majority already had voted yes on the proposal.
Other efforts by CSS have included organized picketing on Sequim Avenue, where 12 parents, teachers and children braved wind and rain to have their voices heard. CSS board member Candyce Jack, who maintains the levy’s website and Facebook page, showed up with her daughter to wave a sign and show her support.
“The opposition is for the taxes,” she said, “not the kids.”
At least one citizen voted no on the measure in order to force the district to redraft the levy as a two-year measure instead of four; his reasoning being that after the Washington Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling, the district may not need money as desperately in the next four years.
Sequim middle school science teacher Dave Hasenpflug says that he understands the concern, but said, “that’s putting an awful lot of faith in the Legislature.” Furthermore, superintendent Kelly Shea said that the four-year proposal was decided during the early levy information sessions, which asked the community directly for input.
Shea also said that a four-year levy ultimately will be more cost effective and will avoid the costs of re-campaigning for a new levy in two years.
This year’s district levy unique in that it’s the first to combine a comprehensive vehicle funding plan.
Seeking new buses
Hoping to replace an aging bus fleet and help the school district finance that fleet better, Sequim schools are proposing a one-time, $1.6 million transportation vehicle fund levy.
The funds would help Sequim purchase more than 30 buses in the next 13 years. Washington state reimburses school districts for the life of each new bus up to 12 years. School districts can then use those funds to purchase new buses as their buses “fall off” what’s called a depreciation schedule.
According to Brian Lewis, Sequim School District business manager, rapid student population growth required the district to expand the fleet in the late 1990s and early 2000s. But two failed levy proposals in 2001 compelled district administrators to buy used buses and finance new ones with borrowed money.
The state, Lewis noted, does not provide funding to expand bus fleets — it only provides funding to replace a fleet purchased by districts.