Sequim city council supports school levies

Sequim city councilors unanimously gave their approval Monday, Dec. 12, for a resolution supporting the two proposed levies in the Sequim School District.

The two levies — a four-year Educational Programs and Operations Replacement levy, also known as Proposition 1, and a three-year Capital Projects levy, Proposition 2 — go to voters in a special election on Feb. 12, 2017.

“A viable school district and school facilities are both really important to our economic vitality,” Sequim City Manager Charlie Bush said.

The city’s resolution states that support for the levies follows the city’s economic development core values and its comprehensive plan while maintaining competitiveness, keeping existing employers and attracting professionals.

The Educational Programs and Operations (EP&O) levy replaces the district’s four-year levy that expires at the end of 2017. It would run from 2018-2021 and generate $26.5 million to pay for more teachers to reduce class sizes, programs like Highly Capable and Advanced Placement courses, curriculum, books and technology, overall district maintenance and activities such as sports and after-school clubs.

The proposed capital project levy would generate about $5.75 million over three years and pay to demolish an unused portion of the Sequim Community School and expand and renovate the central kitchen facility in the same building.

Combined, the two levies would cost $1.68 per $1,000 assessed home valuation in 2018, $1.90 in 2019, $2.36 in 2020 and $1.57 in 2021.

Sequim Superintendent Gary Neal told city councilors that this is the first capital project levy the school district has run before.

“A capital levy, in summary, is what you do when you can’t pass a bond,” he said. “This is a way of chipping away.”

The Sequim School District’s board of directors sent four bond proposals to voters since April 2014 and all failed. Unlike bonds that are used for new construction and require at least 60 percent voter approval, both the Educational Programs Operations Levy and Capital Project levy require at least 50 percent voter approval to pass.

Neal said turnout must be within 40 percent of the last election’s turnout, but he’s optimistic they’ll meet that threshold.

The unused portion of the community school built in 1949 and shuttered in 2012 because it was found to be unsafe for students would give the school district access to $4.3 million in state matching funds for new construction, Neal said.

Several city councilors went on record to share their support for the levies, including Bob Lake who said, “We owe it to the children to give them facilities they need.”

City Attorney Kristina Nelson-Gross said due to anti-lobbying provisions, city councilors couldn’t endorse the levies on the ballot but could support the levy plans.

For more information about the resolution, visit www.sequimwa.gov.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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