By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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“The voters are going to vote what they think. All we can do is tell them what we think we need and listen to what they say,” Superintendent Kelly Shea said after the district's final public forum on the bond in the high school library Thursday evening.
$154 million in bonds
The school district has asked its voters to approve $154,325,000 worth of bonds to fund construction of a new elementary school, an extensive remodel and renovation of the high school and two existing elementary schools, and build a new athletic complex.
“We're at the point now where replacement and renovation is cheaper long term than continuing to put Band-Aids on the problems we've got,” Shea said.
Votes will be tallied Tuesday night. Ballots were mailed to voters in the school district April 2. They must be deposited in a county drop box by 8 p.m. or postmarked on or before Tuesday.
Clallam County elections officials reported Friday that 8,889 of 21,578 ballots had been returned, a 41.19 percent rate.
Jefferson County voters in the district had returned 115 of 273 ballots, 42.1 percent, as of Thursday.
Sequim's bond measure requires a 60 percent majority for passage.
If approved, the bonds would add approximately $1.70 per $1,000 of assessed value to the property tax bills of property owners in the district, which has a total assessed property value of $3.7 billion.
The bond would add $368.90 to the annual property tax bill of the owner of a $217,000 house, the average value in the district.
After studying the district's facilities for most of last year, a committee of citizens determined the district needs to rebuild and expand its facilities to accommodate a pending need for more class space and to build schools that can be more easily secured.
“This has been a 14-month process,” Shea told a crowd of 40 at Thursday's forum.
“But I think it was the number,” he added. “Once that hit the paper, then a lot of people got involved.”
The crowd was loaded with questions.
“Why wasn't there maintenance done on these buildings?” Bryan Carter asked.
“You can clean a table top every day,” said Brian Lewis, the district's business director.
“But if you're wiping it down every day for enough time, eventually, you're going to wear a hole in the table.”
District officials also said the schools do not currently have the space to handle a doubling of kindergarten students that will come with the pending implementation of all-day kindergarten classes.
Shea noted that state mandates also will require additional classrooms for high school science.
“The state is giving us the funding for the teachers in all-day kindergarten, in science,” he said.
“What they're not giving us is the money we need to create the space for those classes.”
Need for space
As it is now, the district uses six portable classrooms and is planning to buy more for the first class of all-day kindergartners, expected next school year.
School officials predicted a 5 percent interest rate on bonds, which would cost a total of $107 million in interest over the 20-year bond issue.
Lewis said Thursday that was a conservative estimate.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.