Opponent opinions sought after Sequim school bond failure
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Dave Mattingley, committee chairman for Citizens for Sequim Schools, left, speaks with Karen Sande, human resources director for the Sequim School District, center, and Valorie Knieper, the districtís human resources specialist, during an election night gathering in Sequim. ó Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– School district officials plan to meet with opponents of a $154 million construction and renovation bond proposition after voters rejected it.

District Superintendent Kelly Shea said Wednesday he wants to talk with some of the 56.5 percent of voters who rejected the bond measure in Tuesday’s election to get their opinions on the school district’s facilities before the district decides on a course of action.

“I did not hear in the forums we had, there weren’t very many people saying we didn’t need to do something about our schools,” Shea said.

“What we heard was ‘Too much money all at once.’”

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.

The measure needed 60 percent approval for passage.

Voters districtwide rejected the request with 6,077 votes opposed to 4,682 in favor of the measure in the first count of ballots by Clallam and Jefferson counties’ auditor’s offices Tuesday night.

Both offices counted all ballots on hand.

Tuesday’s tally included 10,759 ballots of the 21,851 mailed to registered voters districtwide April 2, a 49.3 percent turnout.

In Clallam County, where most of the voters live, the 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 mailed to voters for a 53.5 percent turnout.

By 4:30 p.m. Friday, Clallam County will count ballots that have arrived by mail or been picked up from drop boxes since Tuesday. Jefferson County won’t count more ballots until the election is certified May 6.

To be valid, ballots have to have been postmarked Tuesday or placed in drop boxes by 8 p.m. that night.

Clallam County Auditor Patty Rosand said her office received 424 ballots from voters in the Sequim School District on Wednesday. More may arrive today and Friday.

Rosand doesn’t expect remaining ballots to change the outcome of the election.

The bonds would have taxed district landowners at an estimated $2.24 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Concerned over the tax bill impacts of the bond, Jeff Killian was a regular at the district’s forums on the bond.

“We don’t have a whole lot of people who have a whole lot of money here,” Killian said.

“What we do have is a whole lot of people with a whole lot of smarts who can solve this in an affordable, reasonable way.”

He plans to stay involved and bring along others to help the district find a solution for its facilities.

“I’ll be there to lend whatever help I can give,” Killian said. “I agree our kids need proper facilities, but this was just too much.”

The school board voted in February to put the construction package before voters in April, saying aging facilities were running out of room and were not able to be kept properly secured.

The district also will not have enough classrooms to house a doubling of kindergarten students as it implements all-day kindergarten classes at Helen Haller and Greywolf elementary schools.

The project list for the construction package was assembled by a citizen committee that reviewed the district’s facilities for the greater part of 2013.

In December, the committee forwarded a
$175 million list to the School Board, which pared it down to the $154 million list.

“This was a year and a half in the making,” Shea said.

One of the primary objections Shea reported hearing was the $9 million athletic complex included in the construction package.

“The people who use our athletic facilities are appalled by them,” he said.

“However, a number of people feel the athletic facilities are an extra and we shouldn’t be asking people to support the extra.

“It comes down to what we prioritize as a community,” Shea continued.

“If $9 million is too much, so be it. But it’s all relative. If we went to Texas, a $60 million football stadium is the norm.”

The School Board is expected to discuss the bond’s failure at its next meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, May 5, at 503 N. Sequim Ave.

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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: April 23. 2014 6:22PM
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