Port Angeles High School students walk between classes Wednesday morning. The Port Angeles School District is asking voters to approve a levy that would fund 22 percent of the district’s daily operating budget. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Angeles High School students walk between classes Wednesday morning. The Port Angeles School District is asking voters to approve a levy that would fund 22 percent of the district’s daily operating budget. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Official stresses that proposed Port Angeles schools levy is not new tax

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles School District is asking voters to approve a $36.4 million educational programs and operation replacement levy that would fund 22 percent of the district’s daily operating budget.

“This is not a new tax,” said Chuck Lisk, assistant superintendent, to about a dozen people at a Port Angeles Citizen Action Network — commonly known as PA CAN — forum Tuesday evening. “That’s what we want everyone to understand.”

If approved during the Feb. 14 election, the district would levy $9.1 million annually for four years starting in 2018. It is a renewal of the levy approved by voters in 2015, which is set to expire at the end of 2017.

The district estimates taxpayers will pay up to $3.30 per $1,000 of assessed property value, or about $660 annually for a home worth about $200,000, Lisk said. He said that was a high estimate and the rate is expected to fall a couple cents over each of the four years.

Taxpayers paid $3.20 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2016.

More than half of the levy is planned to go to student programs, which include lower class sizes, athletics and after-school programs, music, special education and vocational classes.

“These programs on our levy are student-centered,” said Marc Jackson, superintendent.

At Stevens Middle School, about 80 percent of students are involved in some sort of after-school program, he said.

That number jumps to 90 percent at Port Angeles High School.

The property tax levy, he said, would allow the district to continue with its award-winning performing arts program, which involves more than 600 students in the district.

“This town for 40 years has had a performing arts program that is second to none,” Jackson said. “Think of how successful that program has become.”

Lisk said such a levy has not failed since 1969.

That year, there were no sports, class sizes ballooned and music classes were canceled, he said.

“I’m confident this is going to pass,” he said. “Can you imagine if you didn’t have the music programs?”

Lisk said it’s those after-school programs that help the district graduate 85 percent of its students, which he compared to the state average of 78 percent.

Steve Methner, co-chairman of Port Angeles Citizens for Education, said he’s heard no direct opposition to the levy, though some suggested it should only last for two years.

That’s because the Supreme Court has required the state to adequately fund basic education by the end of 2018, though he said he’s not holding his breath.

“They were supposed to do that back in 2012,” Methner said, referring to the McCleary decision. “They haven’t been able to function to the point where they can agree to any kind of plan for this legislative session.”

He said the levy pays for programs that state money can’t fund.

Even if the state fully funded basic education, the school district would still have a $5 million to $6 million budget shortfall, Methner said.

“Even if the state did magically become functional and fix it, it would fix the basic education stuff, not all the other stuff,” he said.

The school district has broken down how the money would be used:

• 54 percent for student programs

• 26 percent for maintenance

• 11 percent for facilities repair

• 4 percent for transportation

• 3 percent for food service

• 2 percent for technology

________

Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

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