Trimmed down, prioritized and, after Monday night’s unanimous approval, ready to go to voters.
Sequim School District’s board of directors are seeking support — in the form of $49 million — to help build a new elementary school, add science classrooms at Sequim High School, add classrooms at Greywolf Elementary School and complete several other projects district officials say are critical to the health of the district.
On Nov. 17, the school board voted 4-0 to bring the bond proposal to voters in a special election on Feb. 10.
Board president John Bridge and board members Bev Horan, Mike Howe and Heather Jeffers confirmed a resolution to bring eight distinct projects for voters’ approval; board member Walt Johnson was excused because of an illness.
A $154 million Sequim school construction bond proposal failed in April.
Horan said she talked with families from some of the outlying precincts in the school district’s boundaries, such as Jamestown, Gardiner and Diamond Point, and that residents there believed the last bond plan to be too costly to their overall tax obligations to approve.
“This (plan) is so much better,” Horan said.
“(The previous bond proposal) had too many items and was hard to understand,” Bridge said. “This is simpler and (has) a smaller number at the end.”
The bond would pay for land and the building of a new elementary school, adding four classrooms, a gym and service kitchen at Greywolf Elementary School, adding six science classrooms and band/choir rooms at Sequim High School, and tearing down an unused portion of the Sequim Community School. The bond also would include a major renovation of the district’s base kitchen, fund renovations at Helen Haller Elementary School’s A and D buildings, renovate Sequim High School’s science classrooms into general education classrooms and convert a portion of the Sequim Community School that Olympic Peninsula Academy students use now into a district maintenance and warehouse building.
Forums add focus
Sequim schools superintendent Kelly Shea and district officials held four public forums in recent weeks, explaining several items board members were considering for the bond. Shea said that despite what he considers a low turnout — the forums drew 31 non-district attendees in all — the response was positive.
“The majority of people who attended were new … to the process,” Shea said. “The majority of them were ‘no’ voters (in the last campaign).”
Horan said she attended one of the forums. “Everyone was just so positive,” Horan said. “They (said), ‘Oh, my gosh — these are the same science rooms I had.'”
Horan added, “They know we’re trying to be economically sound. They know the spaces we’re vacating are going to be utilized.”
While board members debated four bond proposal items in recent meetings — the base kitchen, SHS classroom renovations, community school renovations and renovations at Helen Haller — they took little time in deliberating them Monday night, quickly coming to agreement.
Bridge said projects like the community school renovation show good fiscal planning.
“It’s making good use of facilities we have (and) making us more efficient,” he said.
Virginia O’Neil, a former Sequim School board member, urged the board to keep the major overhaul of the district’s base kitchen in the bond plan. Machinery in the kitchen is more than 50 years old, she said, and district staff has a hard time finding ways to keep the machines working when they break down.
“You can’t learn if you’re hungry,” O’Neil told the board. “So often, districts have to be reactive rather than proactive. This is your chance (to be proactive).”
District custodian Rick Osborn urged the board to keep the Helen Haller Elementary School renovations in the plan, with just two small bathrooms in Haller’s A building being inadequate to handle an influx of all-day kindergarten students in the 2015-2016 school year.
SARC on board, too
On the same day voters consider the school bond, they’ll also be asked to consider a 12 cents per $1,000 valuation levy for the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center, a junior taxing district that hasn’t received public funding in more than a decade.
SARC board president Frank Pickering said he’s pleased to see both measures on the same ballot.
“I see it as a very good thing,” Pickering said. “We are committed to helping the school district wherever we can. We are the home of the Wolves.”
SARC hosts Sequim High School’s boys’ and girls’ swim teams in the fall and winter. Pickering noted that SARC director Scott Deschenes has instituted several youth- and family-oriented programs in recent months.
Pickering said he’s hopeful voters will approve both issues in February.
“Personally I think it’s a very reasonable number,” he said.
“For us it’s make or break — there’s no question,” Pickering said, stating SARC will be able to fulfill its legal obligation to have a balanced budget for 2015 and 2016 — but, with revenues staying static — not in 2017.
“Something major would have to happen (to have a balanced budget),” Pickering said.
Voters in Port Angeles will be considering a $98 million bond package to rebuild most of Port Angeles High School, also set for a Feb. 10 election day.
Selling the school plan
If the Sequim School District’s bond passes, the district would start collecting funds in 2016. Those bonds would sell in two phases, district business manager Brian Lewis said, with one in June 2015 and another in January 2016.
On Monday he detailed a tax rate that indicates Sequim resident would be paying about $2.22 per $1,000 of assessed valuation — or $222 for those owning $100,000 worth of property — in 2016, if the bond were to earn approval. That’s less than what taxpayers were paying in 2013 ($2.30 per $1,000).
A new elementary school takes about two-and-a-half years to build, Bridge said.
Jim Stoffer, who between the Monday school board meeting’s start and end was selected chair of Citizens for Sequim Schools, the organization dedicated to promoting school district bond and levy proposals, said he likes what he heard from the board.
“I think this is a better package,” Stoffer said.
“Our teachers and kids deserve it,” he said. “We’re ready to go.”
For more information about Citizens for Sequim Schools, call 775-9356 or see www.facebook.com/CitizensForSequimSchools.
Sequim School District’s
construction bond proposal
New elementary school $29,807,000
Greywolf Elementary additions $7,242,000
Sequim High School additions $9,258,000
District base kitchen remodel $2,130,000
Helen Haller Elem. renovations $1,907,884
Sequim High School renovations $1,746,600
SCS/OPA renovations $829,280
Sequim Community School demo $666,264
(State matching funds) (-$4,322,392)