Sequim School Board mulls future bond measure after voters reject ballot item

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

By Joe Smillie

Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– School officials plan to pare down a list of construction items and have more discussions with community members before taking another shot at a multimillion-dollar bond proposition to replace aging schools.

The Sequim School Board discussed the possibility of a future bond measure — perhaps in February — for the first time since the district’s $154 million bond proposition was voted down by 56.5 percent of voters in the April 2 election.

“There are so many opinions. The only thing they agreed on was this was not the right package,” Superintendent Kelly Shea said.

The school district asked for $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 a new athletic complex.

“I don’t think the bond issue is reflective at all of this community’s support of its schools,” board member Mike Howe said.

“I think the community will go for it in November, they’ll go for it in February, if we give them the right package.”

Board member Sarah Bedinger, who Tuesday announced her resignation from the board effective next month, recommended more meetings with the community before a new proposition is put on the ballot, saying the School Board “rushed to put it on the [April] ballot.”

Putting another measure on the November general election ballot also would be a rush, board President John Bridge said, since the district would have to decide on a proposal by Aug. 5 to make that ballot.

The board may put another measure on the ballot for next February, which means they would have until Dec. 27 to finalize a proposal.

That time, board members agreed, would allow the district to talk more with the community to find an acceptable proposal.

“I would say we put the egg first in this particular case,” Shea said. “Now it’s time to put forth the chicken.”

Howe noted that a later proposal also would give the district time to replace Bedinger with a new board member who could provide input.

Board member Walt Johnson initially suggested putting a measure half the size of the failed proposition on the ballot.

“We can’t go back with something anywhere near the size we went before,” he said.

Jerry Sinn, one of the more outspoken opponents of the district’s bond request, said the board should not set a number but should rather prioritize projects, determine their cost and justify them through community forums.

Dave Mattingley, chair of Citizens for Sequim Schools’ bond advocacy committee, agreed.

“You’re going to have let the community tell you when to stop,” Mattingley said.

Shea noted that many opponents of the failed bond measure have offered to help the district determine a ballot measure that may be more palatable to voters.

“They didn’t just vote no and walk away,” Shea said. “They voted no and said, ‘I’ll be there to help.’”

He said he plans to meet with many of those opponents next month.

In the meantime, the district will begin prioritizing its list of needed construction projects.

“I honestly cannot tell you what’s more important: the high school or the elementaries,” Shea said.

In an off-the-top-of-his-head prioritization, Shea noted that the elementary schools will be adding more students, both with the implementation of all-day kindergarten and with an expected influx of students based on an increased number of births within the district over the past several years.

Shea also stressed the need to replace the district’s central kitchen and bring high school band and choir students onto campus instead of in the former middle school gym across Fir Street. He also pointed out that replacement of the high school track is an important “safety issue.”

Shea did say the $9 million stadium included in the failed bond package would be a low priority based on what he heard from voters.

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

Last modified: May 21. 2014 7:33PM
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