By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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Voters districtwide rejected with 6,077 votes, or 56.5 percent, the district's bond issue request in the first count of election ballots by the Clallam and Jefferson county auditors' offices. The yes vote was 4,682, or 43.5 percent.
“That's shocking. That's a disappointing number,” School Board President John Bridge said at the Clallam County Courthouse after results were announced Tuesday night.
The school district asked 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 the building of a new athletic complex.
With the count all but sinking the bond measure, Superintendent Kelly Shea said the school board will now decide what it wants to do to address the district's aging facilities.
“The needs do not go away,” Shea said Tuesday. “We just have to go back to the drawing board and see where we go from here.”
As of Tuesday night, a total of 10,759 cast their ballots. The combined turnout based on the two counties' initial count was 49.3 percent. It was unknown how many additional mail-in ballots will arrive at auditors' offices the rest of this week. To be counted, ballots must be postmarked on or before Tuesday or deposited in a county drop box by 8 p.m. Tuesday.
All the ballots received as of Tuesday had been counted.
The 20-year bonds would have cost each school district taxpayer an estimated $2.24 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The bond measure required a 60 percent majority for passage.
Despite the results, Shea said he was pleased with the district's engagement in the bond measure.
Forums held throughout the past month drew dozens of concerned citizens, as did meetings held last year as a special citizen committee reviewed the district's facilities.
“I'm proud that we had so many people participate, regardless of what side of the issue they fell on,” Shea said. “I hope they continue to stay engaged.”
Some outspoken opponents of the bond said the increased tax bill was too steep.
“It's supposed to be a retirement village,” bond opponent Bryan Carter said Tuesday. “The people I meet in my shop are all retirees, and they're living on limited income without bringing kids into the school.”
Carter said the bond would have added $1,400 to the yearly taxes on his $800,000 home.
For the $217,000 average Sequim home, the bond would have added $368.90.
Shea said the financial concerns became apparent as more members of the community attended the bond forums.
“It was about money,” he said.
Clallam County's initial count included 10,613 of the 21,578 ballots mailed to voters, a 49.2 percent turnout.
Jefferson County's election night vote included 146 of 273 ballots that had been mailed out, a 53.5 percent turnout, said Betty Johnson with the elections department.
Combined turnout from the two counties' initial count was 49.3 percent.