School levies forum slated in Sequim tonight

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

By Joe Smillie

Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– School district officials spoke to about a half-dozen people about two levies on the Feb. 12 special election ballot earlier this week and plan another community forum tonight.

Sequim Superintendent Kelly Shea and District Business Manager Brian Lewis on Tuesday night briefed a handful of district residents in the high school library on the proposed four-year $5.8 million operations levy and the special one-year $1.6 million transportation levy to replace 17 of the district’s buses.

“This is just the facts, ma’am,” Sequim Superintendent Kelly Shea said. “We’re trying to put as much information as we can out there so the voters can be as informed as possible” before the Clallam County auditor mails ballots Wednesday for the election. Ballots must be returned or postmarked by Feb. 12.

A forum is planned at 6:30 p.m. today in the Sequim High School Library at 601 N. Sequim Ave.

Earlier Tuesday, the Clallam County League of Women Voters hosted a lightly attended forum on the proposals that featured speakers from the Citizens for Sequim Schools, a district boosters group that is urging passage of both measures.

Shea said Tuesday the operations levy would replace the existing three-year levy that voters approved for 2011 to 2013.

That levy this year taxes property owners within the district at $1.59 for every $1,000 of assessed property value for a total of $5.78 million in funding.

If passed, the upcoming levy request would provide the district $5.8 million a year for 2014 through 2017.

The projected rate for 2014 taxation would be $1.58 per $1,000, about a dollar lower than the statewide levy average.

Lewis said levy rates rise and fall based on the county’s annual assessment.

In his projections, Lewis figured property values may fall in 2014 and 2015, which would lift the levy rate to $1.61 per $1,000.

“[County Assessor Pam Rushton} tells me that we’ve hit bottom on property values,” Lewis said.

Rebounding property values in the Sequim school district, worth an estimated $4 billion, would shrink the final year’s rate, Lewis said.

The transportation levy, a one-time tax, would provide the district with enough money to buy 17 buses over the next four years.

Lewis said the transportation levy, which would be taxed at an estimated rate of 44 cents per $1,000 assessed property value, will be used to buy buses so the district would not have to finance new buses.

Interest on such a loan, he said, would cost the district an additional $20,000 per bus.

The upcoming expiration of a 1998 construction bond means if voters approve these funding requests, the school’s total tax take would still go down.

In 2013, the total school levy is $2.27 per $1,000 assessed property value. Next year, that would be $2.18 as the bond enters its final yea of payment. Property owners would be taxed for only the operations levy in 2015 if it passes.

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

Last modified: January 16. 2013 5:57PM
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