Committee forms to support Quilcene school levy

Lack of communication cited for failed vote

QUILCENE — A new group has formed in Quilcene to support a school levy proposition on an upcoming ballot after the vote failed to pass in last month’s special election.

Quilcene was the only community in Clallam and Jefferson counties to vote against a proposed school levy in the Feb. 13 special election, denying the district $3.8 million in funding through 2028.

Shortly after the failed vote, the Quilcene School Board held a special meeting and voted to place the exact same measure on the April 23 special election ballot.

School officials cited lack of communication with the community in explaining why the levy failed the first vote. Board Chair Paul Mahan previously said in the wake of the failed vote that many residents said they had not understood what the impact to the district would be.

“There was quite a bit of energy and enthusiasm on the part of people who attended that meeting,” said Bob Bindschadler, a Quilcene resident who is a consultant for the Vote YES! citizens committee that formed after the failed vote.

Out of a total of 809 votes, 417 voted against the levy and 392 voted for it, a difference of 25 votes.

“Half the people in the district didn’t vote,” Bindschadler said.

The school district sent out a mailer urging support for the vote, but Bindschadler said it wasn’t well organized, and no pro-statement appeared on the actual ballot while an against statement did.

“Quilcene just narrowly failed,” Bindschadler said. “I heard from some people they just didn’t hear the reason to vote yes. Communication very definitely was the weak point.”

The proposed educational programs and operations (EP&O) levy would replace the district’s current levy, which expires at the end of the year.

The levy would be $904,537 in 2025, increasing incrementally to more than $1 million in 2028. The annual levy rate could go up or down based on assessed property value within the district. The current rate is $1.04 per $1,000.

Most of that money helps pay for such extracurricular programs as sports and the preschool, according to interim Superintendent Ron Moag.

“I think there are a number of no votes that can be switched to yes,” Bindschadler said. “It was because of that lack of communication.”

Bindschadler said the Yes committee has started selling yard signs, is drafting a mailer and will hold a community meeting at 6 p.m. March 27 at the Quilcene Masonic Lodge.

But the author of the original opposition statement, Quilcene resident Roger Sorensen, said he’s working on another statement for the upcoming ballot.

“I don’t see any true efforts to improve the programs,” Sorensen said of the district. “It’s been a decade of low performance in schools.”

In a letter to the school board, Sorensen said the proposed levy lacks justification for its increase and would continue spending on status-quo programs, which he argues have produced inadequate results.

“The lack of support for the District EPO proposal reflects a broader concern within the community about the Board’s current direction and priorities,” Sorensen wrote. “To rebuild trust and confidence, the Board must demonstrate a commitment to transparency, accountability and improvement.”

Sorensen suggested the board take more time to refine the levy proposal into something more palatable for the community and put it to a vote later this year.

Mahan previously said the district must submit its budget to the state by July 15, and without the levy, the district will not be eligible for certain sources of state funding.

Despite his opposition to the levy, Sorensen complimented the Yes campaign’s efforts and said he was pleased to see increased community engagement.

“It has pulled the community together. People are starting to get interested in what’s happening in the school system. There’s nothing negative about that,” Sorensen said. “There’s more yes on the levy signs than there are no Port Townsend pool signs, and that’s a strong statement.”

Ballots for the April 23 Special Election will be mailed on April 3.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at peter.segall@peninsuladailynews.com.

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