Port Angeles tech levy failing to garner support

PORT ANGELES — A $4.6 million technology levy for Port Angeles School District was failing on Tuesday, with only 45.24 percent favoring the four-year levy.

The levy would buy new computers and software and train teachers in computer skills.

Passage of the levy requires a 50 percent simple majority.

Of the 18,278 registered voters in the school district, 9,339 had cast ballots, with 4,225 approving the levy and 5,114 rejecting it.

Economic impact

Port Angeles schools Superintendent Gary Cohn said the nation’s bad economy had an impact on the levy results.

“The message for our community for this election was clear as we could make it in the middle of national and state elections that crowd the airwaves,” Cohn wrote in a prepared statement.

“Very few individuals were critical of kids’ technology needs or the reality students face in the job market and global economy today.

“I believe the fears so many of us are feeling in the wake of the Wall Street bailout had a direct impact on voters.”

“It’s too bad that kids’ educations suffer as a result of the economy, but that’s a reality we must all face together.”

Tuesday’s tally included all ballots received as of last Friday.

Clallam County Auditor Patty Rosand said her office had counted 24,242 ballots — the number received by 4:30 p.m. Friday — and said she expects another 6,000 to 8,000 ballots were cast by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

The technology levy would cost homeowners 32 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation beginning in 2009.

That means the owner of a $200,000 home would pay about $64 more in property taxes next year.

In 2012, the tax rate would fall to 27 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation.

Another technology levy failed last May with a 45.73 percent yes vote. The new levy was reduced by 30 percent from that try.

“Shelley Taylor, a Port Angeles School District resident and founder of Property Owners for Predictable Property Tax, which opposed the levy, argued that most children already have access to computers at home or at the library, noting that computers quickly become obsolete.

“The people of this county have spoken,” Taylor said late Tuesday.

“They’re not pleased with the way the education system is being administered. It’s not that I don’t want the children to have the best of the best, but there are better ways to teach children and it doesn’t have to come out of taxes.”

But Andrew May, who co-chaired the Port Angeles Citizens for Education campaign, which lobbied for the levy, says technology serves a key role in education.

“We have to do a better job of communicating to the community the need for technology training,” May said.

“Even though the levy is failing, it doesn’t diminish the need for technology training. It’s getting ever more important.”

Rosand will update results by 4:30 p.m. Friday, and final results will be certified on Nov. 25.

“Even though the technology levy is failing, the need doesn’t go away,” Cohn said.

“As we face another year of declining enrollment and half a million in budget cuts, we’ll make do the very best we can for our students and teachers.”

May said he is sure there will be another technology levy, but it won’t be in the near future.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at [email protected]

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