Sequim superintendent asks school board to consider two levies

Education programs and operations and capital projects proposals could come in February.

SEQUIM — Voters in the Sequim School District might have not one but two levies to consider in 2017, and as early as February.

Sequim schools Superintendent Gary Neal told school board members Monday night he will give them two levy proposals for their consideration at their next board meeting Oct. 17.

The first is a replacement education programs and operations (EP&O) levy, one that funds more than 30 teachers, 16 classroom aides and secretaries, as well as technology and curriculum updates, transportation, maintenance and summer school staffing.

The second is a capital project levy that Neal hopes would address some of the projects voters declined to fund in recent bond proposals.

“We need to look at this as a short-term and long-term plan,” Neal said. “This is a good thing … as long as it’s articulated well.”

Neal didn’t provide specifics about either measure at Monday’s meeting.

The next Clallam County special election date is Feb. 14.

In 2013, school district voters approved a four-year EP&O levy authorizing the collection of $5.78 million per year to support the provision of educational services and programs that support education for Sequim students.

With that levy expiring at the end of 2017, the district hopes to continue those funding levels.

“This is merely a replacement levy,” Neal said.

With state legislators considering increases in student funding, Neal said the district would look at decreasing local levy assessments.

Voters have turned down four Sequim School District bond proposals since April 2014, with the most recent proposal a $54 million bond that garnered about 57 percent of the overall vote, short of the required 60 percent “supermajority” benchmark.

Neal presented the school board with a $55 million bond plan in July, but board members balked at the idea, particularly at putting the proposal on the November general election ballot.

A capital project levy only requires a simple majority, or 50 percent plus one vote.

Capital project levies can be for one to six years — bonds are generally larger and spread out over a longer time period — and must be used for school facilities and other capital improvements.

Capital improvements typically refer to the addition of permanent structural improvements or upgrades, not the building of new facilities.

“As I said before [in July], I am not advocating for a new elementary school,” Neal told the school board.

As school administrators were considering their next steps toward addressing capital projects in the district, Neal said, “We thought, ‘Are there ways you can kind of chunk this [bond] down?’ This is one way of cutting that [list] back.”

The school board has until Dec. 16 to present one or both levy proposals to the Clallam County auditor’s elections office for the Feb. 14 special election.

Other election dates in 2017 include April 25 (special), Aug. 1 (primary) and Nov. 7 (general).

Sequim resident Mike McAleer asked that the board get a levy plan in place soon so that Citizens for Sequim Schools, the grass-roots group that supports local school levies and bond proposals, can get organized.

“We need to have a well-tuned message [and] we need to have that message before the ballots go out,” McAleer said. “It takes a good six weeks of prepping a message. This election is going to be important for a future bond election.”

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Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at editor@sequimgazette.com.

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