By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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The School Board unanimously approved placing a levy on the Feb. 12 special election ballot, asking for a renewal of the current levy that covers daily operational costs above what the district receives in state aid.
The levy would raise $5.78 million each year for four years — 2014 through 2017 — at the same amount as the current levy, which expires in 2013.
The exact levy rate would be adjusted based on the actual assessed value of property each year, but the county Assessor’s Office estimated future Sequim levy rates to be:
-- $1.61060 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2013 and 2014.
-- $1.60899 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2015.
-- $1.60738 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2016.
The amount represents the continuation of a levy approved by voters in 2008, board members noted.
“This represents not just a period of time and work; it is an ongoing process,” said board member Sarah Bedinger.
District staffers always are working on the next levy, even as they work with budgets and other responsibilities, she said.
A debt service fund levy is scheduled to expire in 2014.
Most property owners will see smaller tax bills by 2015, said Brian Lewis, director of business services.
In 2012, the combination of all district levies cost property owners about $1.943 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
The combination of the levy renewal and a proposed school bus levy in 2015 is estimated to be $1.566 per $1,000 of assessed value.
The proposed $1.6 million transportation measure is a one-time, one-year levy to purchase 17 school buses for the district.
The Clallam County assessor’s current estimated levy rate for district property owners is $0.43833 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2013, but the levy rate depends on the final amount of property assessments in the school district.
The district currently has 32 buses, the oldest purchased in 1988, Lewis said.
School districts receive depreciation payments each year for 13 years after purchasing a bus.
Currently, eight buses are older than 13 years old, and an additional nine buses will cross that line in the next two years, Lewis said.
The ideal scenario is to retire buses when they drop off the depreciation payment list, sell them at auction and purchase replacements, he said.
School bus prices depend on the number of passengers, from $50,000 for a small “special education” bus with a wheelchair lift to $102,000 for a large 72-passenger bus.
The levy fund can be used only to purchase yellow school buses and cannot buy vans or other district vehicles, according to state law.
State depreciation funds are deposited into an account that can be used only for yellow school buses.
The proposed $1.6 million purchase of new buses would put Sequim schools’ transportation department into a position where the depreciation fund would be able to purchase replacement buses entirely from the state-supplied fund for at least 26 years, said board member Virginia O’Neil.
Currently, the district has to take out loans or use general fund money to make up the difference between what is available in the fund and the cost of a new bus.
“The levy will allow us to use depreciation payments toward new buses instead of paying off debt,” Bedinger said.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.