Sequim schools to seek $49.3 million bond in November

Board unanimous in putting measure on general election ballot

Sequim school leaders are looking to put their third recent bond proposal over the top.

Sequim School District’s board of directors voted unanimously to put a $49.3 million proposal on the November general election ballot Monday night. The bond would, among other things, help pay for a new elementary school, refurbish the district kitchen and add classrooms at Sequim High School and Greywolf Elementary School.

Needing to pass a resolution by Aug. 4, Sequim’s board of directors — president Bev Horan, vice president Heather Jeffers, Michael Howe and Walter Johnson — each voted to put the measure on the Nov. 3 ballot; board director John Bridge was absent.

“My hope is that November is as positive as we hope it will be,” Horan said. “We’re in these schools (and) see how bad it is. I support this for the November ballot.”

The resolution would allow the school district to issue and sell unlimited tax general obligation bonds in the principal amount of $49.3 million over 20 years.

That would put the school tax rate for a property owner in Sequim School District boundaries at $2.19 per $1,000 of assessed valuation (the figure includes the current educational programs and operations levy), according to Brian Lewis, executive director of business services for the Sequim School District.

The proposal needs to meet a “super majority,” or 60 percent, of the vote in November.

In April 2014, voters defeated a $154 million bond proposal by a 56-44 percent margin. A trimmed down version put to a vote in February 2015 of $49.5 million received more than 57 percent yes votes, falling short of the “super majority” figure.

This proposal mirrors last February’s, with about $29 million for a new elementary school, $9.2 million for science classrooms and band/choir rooms at Sequim High, $2.1 million to modernize the district’s base kitchen, $7.2 for four new classrooms and a gymnasium at Greywolf Elementary, $1.9 million in renovations to Helen Haller Elementary School to house Olympic Peninsula Academy students, $1.7 million for reconfiguring science classrooms to general education rooms at Sequim High, about $830,000 to reconfigure part of the Sequim Community School into a warehouse and maintenance facility, and about $660,000 to demolish a portion of the unused community school.

The district expects to receive about $4.3 million in state matching funds.

On Monday night, citizens and school staffers packed the boardroom to affirm their support for putting a bond proposal on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Brandino Gibson, a Sequim businessman, said he supports a measure for the upcoming general election. He said a key question he gets from others in business circles is, how are the schools?

“I would love to give them a positive answer, but unfortunately I can’t do that,” Gibson said. “I’ll do everything I can to back you up if you put this on the November ballot.”

Therese Coleman, who works on the maintenance crew at the school district, added, “I know what the facilities look like. I can only put on so much paint.”

In recent weeks, the board had considered several dates to rerun a bond proposal, including running a special election in February 2016, when school board positions have been settled.

On Monday, board members agreed an earlier date was better.

“We would be sort of insane to run it in February, in the face of all the support of the people who will run this campaign,” Johnson said.

With the majority of the audience pulling for a Nov. 3 bond resolution, the board concurred.

“I wish it would have been like this last time,” Jeffers said of the crowd at Monday’s meeting, “but better late than never.”

According to the Citizens for Sequim Schools Facebook page, Gibson and Colleen Robinson are taking the lead with that group to spearhead a campaign to pass the November bond proposal.