On April 22, the Sequim community will face a huge decision that will significantly affect the future of our community and the children and families living here.
I will vote “yes” for the much-needed Sequim School District facility bond for the following reasons:
• Our community needs to recruit and retain physicians and other health care professionals. There is a significant shortage of physicians both nationally and locally and rural areas in the U.S. have 20 percent of the population but only 10 percent of the physicians. In my role as CEO, I work on recruiting physicians every week. When talking to physicians considering moving to Sequim, the No.1 question that I get is, “What is the quality of the local schools?” Physicians with families often decide where to live and practice by the quality of local schools. By passing this bond, Sequim schools will become a magnet for recruiting and retaining physicians and other health care professionals. The quality of our local health care system is directly connected to the quality of our schools. You can impact the availability of quality physicians locally by voting for the school construction bond.
• Our 2,700 children need the best education we can give them. To maximize the education we offer our children, facilities and technology are critical. Up-to-date science labs, computer networks, modern classrooms and technical training facilities better position students and teachers to excel.
The promise of the U.S. has always been that each generation sacrifices for the next generation so they may have greater opportunities. The “American Dream” is under intense pressure and today’s children need an excellent education to keep this country moving forward. Sequim children can’t vote but we can certainly give them the best opportunity to succeed.
• Sadly, Sequim schools are falling apart. The facility bond will address these problems. Our high school needs to be massively upgraded. Helen Haller must be replaced. Our middle school roof leaks. Greywolf needs to be expanded to fit new students and full-day kindergarten.
Our school kitchen is too small and badly needs new equipment. Our schools have serious security issues. Before deciding not to support this bond, tour the high school, Helen Haller and other facilities, or watch the videos on the Sequim School District’s website to see for yourself.
Thankfully, due to extremely low interest rates, it will never be cheaper to fund these much-needed improvements. Reduced interest rates will come to an end. Inflation will make the construction costs go up if we further defer this work. Kicking the can down the road is not in the best interest of tax payers.
• Public investments improve our quality of life and support our economy. Can you image Sequim without the SARC, the Highway 101 bypass, John Wayne Marina, and the Sequim OMC campus? These large public investments have made Sequim a more desirable place to live. Improved school facilities will lure more families (including physicians) to Sequim. Our local economy will benefit from this public investment in our schools. With strong schools and healthcare services, selling homes will be easier due to more people moving here.
• If this bond passes, the total property tax supporting our local schools will be $3.85 per thousand, which is below the average of all other school districts across the state, which is $4.44 per thousand. If passed, Sequim will be 13 percent below the state average and if it does not pass, Sequim will be 52 percent below the state average. The manner in which we fund our local schools in Washington is much different from other states and relies heavily on local property taxes. This may seem like an odd way to fund schools, but this is the system we have. Other communities have clearly stepped up for their schools: Sequim should do the same.
My two children are too old to benefit from these new facilities, but I am going to vote for these facilities. Sequim needs more physicians, and it needs to be a place for local kids to get an excellent education; Sequim school facilities must be improved to meet the demands for classrooms, current technology and security, and we need people to want to move and live here to maintain/improve our local economy.
We can accomplish all this and still have a school property tax rate that is well below the state average.
Please join me as we help determine the future direction of our community.
Eric Lewis is CEO of Olympic Medical Center, a Sequim resident and father of Sequim School District students.