Levy hopes dashed, fulfilled: Port Angeles, Cape Flattery backers respond to initial election results

PORT ANGELES — Election Day left the West End’s Cape Flattery School District basking in victory and Port Angeles School District — with about 1,000 more votes to count by Friday — staring at the spectre of defeat.

The Port Angeles district’s $46.7 million capital levy for Stevens Middle School expansion and building improvements was losing 51.22 percent to 48.78 percent, or 4,209 votes to 4,008 votes, on ballots received and counted Tuesday night.

Another count of ballots in the all-mail election will be completed by 4:30 p.m Friday, said county Auditor Shoona Reiggs.

Levy proponent Steve Methner was not optimistic Wednesday morning.

“Honestly, it’s a little distressing,” he said.

He predicted 60 percent approval in the remaining ballots would be needed for levy passage.

Cape Flattery’s proposed two-year educational programs and operations levy of $550,000, which replaced a two-year levy of $750,000 that expires this year, was approved 78.34 percent to 21.66 percent, or 217 votes to 60 votes.

“I’m doing much better than last night,” Cape Flattery Superintendent Michelle Parkin said Wednesday, adding she was thankful for the community’s support.

“It’s always nice to be able to work through that process and have a positive outcome in the end.”

The Auditor’s Office counted 8,497 ballots Tuesday night out of 21,854 mailed to registered voters in the Port Angeles, Clallam Bay-Sekiu and Neah Bay areas for a voter turnout of 38.89 percent.

There are 847 drop-box ballots and 135 received in the mail Wednesday left to be counted, boosting turnout to 43.37 percent.

Riggs said an additional “handful” of Forks drop-box ballots for the Cape Flattery School District election must be counted, and a small number of ballots likely from both elections are expected in the mail today.

The newest tally of Port Angeles School District votes would have to buck Tuesday’s trend and boost votes in favor of the levy by 10 percent for a chance at passage, Methner predicted.

Riggs said anything is possible but was leery about a 10 percent swing away from Election Night totals.

“Ten percent is a lot,” she said. “It’s a long shot.”

Parkin said Cape Flattery School District still faces steep challenges despite passage.

The measure is smaller than the one it replaces but the needs haven’t changed, she said.

The district had to put forward a smaller levy to voters due to the McCleary decision, forcing the 500-student, K-12 district to struggle to keep afloat some services, such as after-school programs.

Parkin said school districts must abide by McCleary’s basic-education edict while the state Legislature has yet to provide full funding required under the Supreme Court decision.

“Maybe we’ll have some more answers by the close of the next session so we will be able to move forward,” she said.

The levy rate for the Cape Flattery measure is $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in each of the next two years.

The levy rate for the Port Angeles School District measure is $2.47 per $1,000 of valuation from 2019 through 2024.

That’s a property tax increase of $494 a year for the owner of a $200,000 home, or $41 a month more for those who save monthly to pay their property tax bills.

Methner, co-chair of Port Angeles Citizens for Education and a longtime organizer of bond and levy campaigns, said it’s far too soon to speculate on when a new capital-projects measure will be put before voters and how much will be sought.

“I don’t think the community has any choice but to fund something,” he said.

“Until we know more about what people’s true feelings are, whether in the short term they are anxious about new taxes from the state level or some other factor, we don’t know what the right thing is to do just yet.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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