Sequim School District’s two levies earned passing grades last week, as the school leaders seek funding for basic education services as well as supplemental funds for technology and infrastructure projects.
The district’s Educational Programs and Operations (EP&O) levy received 7,642 yes votes out of 13,500 ballots cast for 56.6 percent (as of Feb. 12).
Voters also approved the school district’s capital projects levy, with 7,905 of the 13,542 ballots cast (58.4 percent) as of Feb. 12.
The next ballot count is set for Feb. 17, with the election certified on Feb. 19.
The four-year, $29.7 million EP&O levy replaces Sequim’s current local tax and pays for core learning functions not supported in the state’s basic education formula, while the four-year, $15 million capital projects levy addresses a number of building issues at each school campus and provides an overhaul of the district’s technology infrastructure.
“We want to thank the community for A, getting out to vote, and B, voting in favor for both (levies),” interim superintendent Jane Pryne said.
Taxpayers in the district would pay between $1.87 ($1.24 for the EP&O levy, $0.63 for the capital projects levy) and $1.89 ($1.26/$0.63) per $1,000 of assessed value starting in 2022, district officials said.
Clallam County election officials estimate the county office has about 900 ballots to count.
“I didn’t have a doubt that we would pass,” Sequim School Board president Brandino Gibson said. “I didn’t think we’d blow this out of the water (but) the numbers were kind of about what I expected.”
The EP&O renewal levy accounts for about 17 percent of the district’s annual budget and pays for salaries for additional teachers, paraeducators, counselors and nurses, the Highly Capable program, extra-curricular activities (sports, music, drama, field trips, etc.) and other staffing costs.
“I think people understood EP&O levy monies are part of our day-to-day operation (funds),” Pryne said. “They would ask, ‘What would you do if it didn’t pass?’ I didn’t want to go down that road.”
The capital projects levy would pay for a number of projects across the district. In November, a levy committee examined and prioritized a number of projects the district is seeking to fund, including: a video surveillance system, network system, voice system district-wide; a replacement of roof, heating system, network upgrades and sewer connection at Greywolf Elementary; installation of fire alarm system at Helen Haller Elementary; a replacement of roof, gym floor repair, cafeteria floor replacement at Sequim Middle School; a replacement of heating system, science and career/technical education classroom upgrade and modernization, gym floor replacement and roof replacement among other things at Sequim High School, and replacement of the track and restrooms at the Sequim athletic stadium.
“The big thing about the Capital Projects Levy is, it just takes care of those needs we’ve had for years,” Gibson said.
Pryne said it was key having a video made detailing district needs the capital projects levy addresses (see the video here: youtube.com/watch?v=RyDM3y5ZLMY).
“We had a community group do a video, because we can’t give (people) tours right now; I think that helped,” Pryne said.
This levy and a capital projects levy that voters passed in 2017 — one that funded the construction of the district central kitchen — puts the school district in a good place to plan for growth or building replacement in the future, Gibson said. That 2017 levy project funded deconstruction of the former Sequim Community School, leaving a centrally-located piece of school property that some school leaders have proposed as a spot for a new elementary school.
“We’ve had a lot going on with school closures and COVID,” Gibson said. “Now we can move forward, whatever that may be.”
School district officials tried four times to pass a bond issue between 2014-2016, that would have funded a new elementary school. Each failed, with the third bond measure —in February 2016 — falling short by less than one half of a percent of the 60 percent super-majority required.
In 2017, voters approved a three-year, $5.75 million capital project levy that paid for demolition of unused portions of the Sequim Community School and rebuilt the central kitchen facility on the same property.