Cooper: Sense per thousand

Last April, I wrote a long column on the facility needs of the Sequim School District and I promise you I’m not writing it again.

Playing it safe, Part I

Last April, I wrote a long column on the facility needs of the Sequim School District and I promise you I’m not writing it again.

I detailed poor lighting, poor air circulation, multiple old portables, surplus military kitchen equipment and unsecured and broken outside passageways among other things. It was a big list matched by a big price tag.

The voters of the Sequim School District weren’t buying and deemed it a mighty overreach. The bond crashed in overwhelming defeat.

Rising from the tattered and worn planning board and befittingly humble, the school board and administration of the district eliminated a number of needed projects and came back with a price tag costing a third of the proposed 2014 rate. The proposed 2016 rate of $2.23 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation is nearly the same as the actual 2014 rate but above the current 2015 rate of $1.61. This year’s rate is lower because the district paid off its 1996 construction bond.

The school board appears to be playing it safe.

Playing it safe, Part II

The Feb. 10 school district bond is sharing the ballot with SARC, the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center. From what I read, the SARC board never quite got over losing two levies, one at 12 cents per thousand and the second at 10 cents in 2002. That’s actually a remarkable outcome when you consider that it only cost the median house owner about $26 a year.

Apparently, they felt so spurned by the community and I can’t say I blame them; the board either let maintenance slide or dipped into reserves to pay for it over the past decade. A former board member was so frustrated with board inaction that he resigned in 2006 when the board would not act to put forth another levy to fund what he considered serious facility issues.

The board has put forth a levy this year with an assessment of the same 12 cents per thousand. The situation has become so dire that the board is staking the life of the only community pool on the outcome.

More than a whiff of desperation is coming from poolside at the SARC. Letters are flowing in from SARC users matching, if not exceeding, those sent to support or oppose the school levy.

I’m just wondering what they would call the aquatic center without a pool.

Who are the voters?

The voters who defeated the 2002 SARC levy and 2014 school district bond had effectively stifled vision and put these two community resources in their places. I wondered who they were and discovered the following voter facts.

Sixty-one percent of registered voters in the Sequim School District are 60 years of age or older. Seventy-two percent of voters who voted in one and 77 percent of voters who voted in both of the Feb. 12, 2013, and April 22, 2014, school levy/bond issues were 60 years of age or older.

Looks like we old folks are in charge of the destinies of our children and our community pool. We did pass the 2013 education/operations levy and transportation levy, so it’s not that we don’t care. I believe it’s a pocketbook for some and they need to know they may be financially eligible for exemptions. For most I suspect it is visionary myopia.

Chance to be brilliant

I do not put schools and SARC on the same level of importance to the community, although I will vote for both. Schools are about the future of children and our country. SARC is about the health and well-being of individuals, mostly seniors, who use the facility.

That’s important — but there should be no competition that implied by a SARC board member who whined in a 2014 letter that there would be no money left for SARC if the school bond issue passed. These are two different things.

We’ve had our chance to be brilliant and I frankly want every child in greater Sequim (that would be Sequim and Port Angeles) to have an even better chance to be brilliant. Children throughout their young lives should have the opportunity to explore their interests, learn and develop their special talents in an up-to-date technological, healthful and secure environment.

Human babies require the most time and attention to grow to maturity than any other species and that’s just to survive. In order to flourish in our modern times, they need love, security, education and opportunity. They need encouragement from adults in their life, the ones they most want to please – parents, teachers, coaches, pastors and the ice cream man.

I admire the many good people involved in the lives of children in our community. Children need attention and teaching to support the flickering lights of their unique brilliance.

And yup, our schools need our money to help them.


Bertha D. Cooper is retired from a 40-plus year career as a health care administrator focusing on the delivery system as a whole. She still does occasional consulting. She is a featured columnist at the Sequim Gazette. Reach her at


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