Ballots mailed today for proposed Chimacum, Brinnon school district levies
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Chimacum Superintendent Rich Stewart, right, reviews a levy brochure with his secretary, Stephanie McCleary, whose name is on the lawsuit that prompted a Supreme Court decision mandating adequate school funding.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Ballots will be mailed today for two proposed public school district levies aimed at bridging the gap between available school funds and money needed to meet the state's recently increased education standards.

The property tax levies for the Chimacum and Brinnon districts are the only measures on the Feb. 11 special election ballot in Jefferson County.

“The Legislature hasn't funded us to the level where we can do what we want to do,” said Chimacum Superintendent Rich Stewart.

“This money can replenish some of the cuts that have been made since 2008.”

Said Brinnon Superintendent Wally Lis: “The state isn't fully funding education, so we have to rely on local dollars to run an instructional program.”

Both measures would replace levies due to expire this year. If passed, collection would begin in 2015.

Chimacum's proposal, if approved, would represent a $32-per-year increase on a $200,000 home, Stewart said.

The Chimacum levy would be expected to raise $9 million for the district over three years, assessing $1.67 per $1,000 of property value in 2015, $1.83 in 2016 and $1.99 in 2017.

The current rate is $1.52 per $1,000.

The new levy, if approved, would mean that a person owning a $200,000 home would pay $334 in 2015.

Brinnon's proposed levy would not increase from the present rate of $1.06 per $1,000 of property value — meaning that a person owning a $200,000 home pays $212 a year.

It would be expected to bring in $605,042 over two years.

Lis said “it is not a sure thing” the levy will pass.

“Times are tough, and it's hard for the community to backfill what the state isn't doing,” he said.

Chimacum's proposed three-year educational programs and operations levy question will be sent to 8,519 registered voters, while Brinnon's two-year school maintenance and operation levy question will go to 958 voters, the Jefferson County Auditor's Office said.

Chimacum's Stewart said the measure is necessary to subsidize training and materials needed for the district to meet state standards that were underscored by the McCleary decision, a 2012 ruling by the state Supreme Court that has its roots in the district.

The ruling — named for Chimacum resident Stephanie McCleary, who was encouraged to file suit by former Chimacum Superintendent Mike Blair — requires the state to implement reforms by 2018.

McCleary, district secretary for the school district, works with Stewart.

Stewart called McCleary a “symbol,” saying her fame “is very humbling and is not something she expected to happen.”

“It doesn't give us any more punch with the Legislature, but people here are pleased about the connection,” Stewart said.

“I think that a lot of legislators aren't pleased with the court action,” he added.

“They believe their actions should be separate from the courts, and they don't like the courts telling them what to do.”

Mandates are expected to begin in 2018, but Stewart said that is not a sure thing.

If the state comes through with the necessary funds for instruction and supplies, the school would not assess the authorized rates, Stewart said.

Stewart, 65, was hired in July as an interim superintendent after Craig Downs resigned too late in the school year to recruit a replacement.

Stewart has agreed to stay another year. The School Board will consider a contract extension when it meets at 6 tonight in the Chimacum High School library, 91 West Valley Road.


Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or

Last modified: January 22. 2014 9:24AM
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