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Sequim schools eye bond vote for 2015

In the days and weeks following sound defeat of a $154 million capital construction bond that would have built a new elementary school and a massive remodel of Sequim’s lone high school, community members have had the ear of Sequim schools superintendent Kelly Shea.

“We’ve had a few weeks after the election to reflect (and) I’ve gotten a great deal of advice, opinions, encouragement,” Shea told school board members last week. “I’m ready to move on.”

So too are those board members — but not anytime soon.

Without an official vote, Sequim’s five-member school board of directors agreed on May 20 to curtail developing any specific figures for a bond resolution until they have two things: more input from the community and a new school board member; director Sarah Bedinger announced she will resign her position in mid-June (see sidebar, A-4).

But board members agreed they want to bring a bond proposal back to voters, likely in February of 2015.

“Having been through three different (facility) study committees, the needs haven’t changed,” school board member Bev Horan said. “I think we need to put kids first.”

The construction bond garnered only about 47 percent yes votes on April 22 — a far cry from the 60-percent “super majority” needed to pass — and bond supporters were left to figure out how to make up a gap of thousands of votes.

“I don’t think the bond issue is at all reflective of (how the community feels),” school board member Mike Howe said. “I’m not sure we’ll all agree on the priorities (but) I think the community will support it … if we give them the right package.”

He said he would support more public forums but not a “back to the drawing board” approach, throwing out work done by two district facility committees.

Size and scope

Bond supporters asserted that construction is necessary, that many of Sequim’s school buildings are aging and unsafe, and that a new elementary school would create more space for Sequim’s growing kindergarten population.

But critics of the bond proposal argued the dollar figure for the bond is too great for a community the size of Sequim to pay for, and that voters have not been given any alternatives.

“They didn’t just vote no,” Shea said. “They voted no and said, ‘I’ll be back to help with the next one.’”

Sequim School Board director Walter Johnson said he’d like to put a cap on what the board asks for from voters.

“It looks to me like we need to go back … with something close to half the size,” he said. “We can’t go back with something close to what we did.”

Dave Mattingley of Citizens for Sequim Schools, the citizens-led group promoting the bond, urged the board to not set a dollar figure.

“You’re going to have to let the community tell you when to stop,” Mattingley said.

Reaching out

Shea said he plans to host community forums prior to the board developing a bond resolution.

“Our biggest issue is (that) there are so many opinions,” he said. “I honestly cannot tell you which is more important: the high school or the elementary (school). We need to be thoughtful about what we’re doing.”

That resolution, Shea said, would come after the board appoints a director to fulfill Bedinger’s term through November of 2015.

Bedinger said she hopes the board considers feedback from the community before the next bond proposal goes to voters.

“One of the big mistakes was rushing to put it on the ballot,” she said.

To gain a spot on the November 2014 general election ballot, a board resolution would need to be in place by Aug. 5 — too soon, directors agreed, to have a consensus from themselves and the community.

Jerry Sinn, a vocal opponent of the bond proposal in weeks preceding the April 22 vote, voiced support for the board’s approach last week.

“I like what I hear and I think that’s the approach to take,” Sinn said.

A resolution for the Feb. 10, 2015 special election ballot would need to be passed by the board and approved by the Clallam County elections office by Dec. 26, 2014.

 

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