Buses to be purchased, programs maintained in Sequim
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Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News
Jeff Gossage, Sequim School District transportation supervisor, shows the black soot that lines the tailpipes of the district's older buses.

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– Seventeen new buses will be added to the school district's fleet and current programs maintained after voters across the district Tuesday night gave two-thirds approval to $24.8 million in property tax levies.

“I think this shows an incredible amount of support from an incredible community,” Superintendent Kelly Shea said, citing the work of Citizens for Sequim Schools, which mounted a campaign to garner support.

The four-year maintenance-and-operations levy will provide $5.8 million from 2014 to 2017, and the onetime bus-replacement levy will provide $1.6 million.

Business Director Brian Lewis said the maintenance levy is critical to maintaining services in the $25.7 million annual budget.

More than half the funds will be used to pay teacher salaries.

“We do have a couple of curriculum needs we were holding off on,” Lewis said.

Updated math programs for each of the district's two elementary schools will cost approximately $600,000, he said.

Lewis said the district plans to order eight buses in June 2014 after first-half property-tax payments are collected, and they should be delivered that following December.

Transportation Supervisor Jeff Gossage said two buses date back to 1988.

An additional nine buses will be ordered after second-half property taxes are collected in November 2014.

They will arrive in time for the start of the 2015 school year.

Gossage said the new buses will give the district a “standardized” fleet of buses that will result in reduced costs for parts and maintenance.

The estimated levy rate from the Assessor's Office for the maintenance-and-operations levy is $1.611 per $1,000 assessed value in 2014, $1.611 in 2015, $1.608 in 2016 and $1.607 in 2017.

The transportation levy is an estimated rate of 44 cents per $1,000 assessed property value.

The upcoming expiration of a 1998 construction bond means that even with these levies, the district's total tax rate charged to property owners is expected to go down.

This year, the total school district tax rate is $2.27 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation.

Next year, it will be $2.18 per $1,000 assessed value.

Barring another proposition from the district, property owners will be taxed for only the operations levy from 2015 through 2017.

Auditors in both Clallam and Jefferson counties counted Tuesday night 10,432, or 47.8 percent, of the 21,790 ballots mailed to district voters.

Clallam County counted 10,164, or 47.2 percent, of 21,522 ballots. Jefferson counted 153 of its 268 mailed ballots to Gardiner residents, a turnout of 57.1 percent.

Since only a simple majority is required to pass, remaining ballots aren't enough to change outcomes.

Clallam County Auditor Patty Rosand said her office received 263 ballots from Sequim voters in Wednesday's mail. Those will be added to the next count Friday, as will ballots picked up from the drop box in Sequim.

Jefferson County Elections Supervisor Karen Cartmel said she received three ballots for Sequim in Wednesday's mail. Since the few ballots that likely will come in will not sway the election results, Cartmel said, they will not be counted until certification day, Feb. 26.

Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 13. 2013 6:19PM
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