The funding of Sequim’s schools

Revenue sources vary but communities bear burden of new construction costs

Washington school districts rely on either construction bonds or capital projects levies to fund capital improvements

Washington school districts rely on either construction bonds or capital projects levies to fund capital improvements

As one of 295 school districts statewide, the Sequim School District is federally, state and locally funded.

But it almost relies entirely on the public when it comes to new construction.

A $49.3 million construction bond proposal pends voter support on Nov. 3, one that would among other things pay for construction of a new elementary school, four more classrooms and a gym at Greywolf Elementary, six new high school science classrooms and new high school band and choir classrooms.

Unlike its alternative, known as a capital projects levy, a construction bond requires a “super majority” or 60 percent of the vote. Despite the additional votes needed for success, a construction bond has remained the preferred option for funding the Sequim School District’s needs because capital projects levies are limited to one- to six-year collection cycles.

Capital projects levies require a tax rate beyond what most communities can or will support, Brian Lewis, Sequim School District business manager said.

Although voters defeated a $154 million bond proposal by a 56-44 percent margin in April 2014 and again in February for $49.5 million that received more than 57 percent yes votes, in early August the Sequim School Board of Directors opted to try again.

The approaching General Election will mark the third time the bond proposal has appeared on voter’s ballot, but the Sequim School District is “among good company,” Lewis said.

Statistically, 56 percent of school bond proposals fail their first and second attempt, according to Trevor Carlson, managing director for a Seattle-based public finance firm.

The previous construction bond passed in 1996 used to fund the construction of the Sequim Middle School, H Building at the high school and cafeteria also took three elections, Lewis said.

If approved, the tax impact to repay the bond within a 20-year window is set at 59 cents per $1,000 assessed property valuation — a reduced rate from the initial bond tax rate projection estimated mid July. Coupled with the Educational Programs and Operations Levy, the 2016 school tax rate would be $2.11 per $1,000 assessed valuation.


School revenues received, spent

Beyond construction, capital improvements and/or renovations that require a construction bond or capital projects levy, the other economic engines behind the Sequim School District include state apportionment, education programs and operations levy, state categorical, federal funds and free programs.

 

Based on a number of factors such as student enrollment, legislatively-set base salaries and employee benefits, state apportionment is providing 56.6 percent of the district’s General Fund revenue.

The Education Programs and Operations Levy is providing 19.2 percent, state categorical is providing 14.4 percent, federal funds are providing 8.4 percent and lastly fee programs are providing 1.4 percent from non-tax funds for things like for food services, summer school and pay-to-participate programs.

To cover the 2015-16 academic year with an associated $32.4 million in expenditures, the revenue from the varying sources is distributed throughout the district via five funds allocated for different uses. These funds include the General Fund, Associated Student Body Fund, Debt Service Fund, Capital Projects Fund and Transportation Vehicle Fund.

More than half (61.8 percent) of the district’s revenue is used for teaching activities, whereas 9.2 percent pays for teaching support, such as librarians, counselors and nurse, 5.9 percent pays for building administration, 7.4 percent pays for central administration, like human resources, business office and superintendent’s office and the remaining 15.8 percent of revenue is put toward services such as food, transportation, maintenance of grounds and buildings, insurance and utilities.

Revenue from timber, such as the $120,000 received by the district this 2015-16 year from Federal Forest Funds, is detailed in the district’s General Fund, and in this case are to be distributed via the Capital Projects Fund for HVAC replacements, according the district’s website and 2016-16 budget.

For more information on how the Sequim School District is funded, visit www.sequimschools.wednet.edu/Domain/8.

 

Reach Alana Linderoth at alinderoth@sequimgazette.com.

 

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