PORT ANGELES — Schools Superintendent Martin Brewer called for unity Wednesday following a successful, hard-fought battle to convince voters to pass a capital levy to improve Port Angeles School District facilities.
The five-year, $52.6 million measure, which includes a 30-year plan for improvements, kept on its winning path Wednesday after leading in the first count Tuesday night.
Requiring a simple majority of 50 percent plus one vote for approval, the levy had passed 53.55 percent to 46.45 percent, or 4,870 to 4,225 votes, by Wednesday’s count.
The Clallam County Auditor’s Office has 2,200 more ballots on hand to count by 4:30 p.m. today.
The Clallam County Auditor’s Office is conducting daily tallies.
The levy will add a $2.62 to every $1,000 of assessed value to property for five years, a $655 property tax increase for the owner of a $250,000 home.
It will be up for voter renewal at that same levy rate in five years to continue funding district improvements, including a new high school.
“We all voted based on what we believe our reality is,” Brewer said earlier Wednesday.
“Now I hope we can come together as a community and build this school, Stevens [Middle School].”
Collection of levy money will begin in 2021, followed by design of a new and upgraded Stevens Middle School in 2022 and groundbreaking for the new facility in 2023.
Brewer said within the next month he will issue a call for applicants for an advisory council of district staff and community members to take part in the planning process for the new school.
Work will begin by December on controlled-access safety upgrades to district elementary schools, funded with emergency capital money “that we know we can replace once we start collecting the levy in 2021,” Brewer said.
School district voters have not approved capital funding since a 2001 measure to remodel Jefferson Elementary School.
Steve Methner, an organizer of the pro-levy group Port Angeles Citizens for Education (PACE), recalled past capital facilities funding measures that failed not so long ago.
A bond for rebuilding Port Angeles High School lost in 2014, as did a 2017 measure that had “the same fundamental plan” as the measure approved this week, Methner said.
“Already I’m hearing an increased feeling of optimism from so many people who are calling and emailing, expressing such optimism and relief that we finally rocked this thing out of the mud where it’s been stuck,” he said.
Levy opponent Dan Shotthafer, an organizer of the anti-levy group Citizens for Affordable Schools, was not ready to concede defeat Wednesday morning despite the ballot-count trend.
“It’s going to be difficult to make up that majority,” he said.
“That’s the facts on the ground, and we worked hard.
“I’d like to thank all those that supported our campaign who tried to bring what we viewed as affordable, common-sense solutions to the infrastructure renovation, modernization and repair issue that actually we think should have already been taken care of over the years.”
He was not available for comment after the second count.
Shotthafer’s group raised about $2,500 to fight the measure, which Wednesday he called “a $52 million tax increase.”
PACE raised about $10,000, Methner said.
Methner and Brewer credited a concerted effort by supporters to gain the victory.
Brewer praised the business community Wednesday during an interview and later to more than 100 attendees of a Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce-Port Angeles Business Association joint luncheon.
Both groups supported the measure, as did a Port Angeles Realtors group, the Port Angles City Council and Port of Port Angeles commissioners.
During the interview, Brewer called it a turning point when the chamber endorsed the measure and “actually led the conversation in the business community.”
It also was endorsed by Laborers’ International Union Local 252, members of which “got out on the streets and waved signs with us,” Brewer said.
They were joined by the Teamsters Local 589 and the Olympic Labor Council, AFL-CIO, Brewer said.
“It wasn’t just educators, it was the community getting behind this effort and saying, this is what is desired for our community.
“For members of the community that don’t have students in our system, and what’s in it for them, they really started to talk about the greater investment of the community, and what it means to our community.”
Brewer recalled chamber past board President Jim Haguewood saying that about $140 million is being invested in downtown Port Angeles, encompassing nine projects including in a new Waterfront Center, the Elwha Hotel and Anian Shores, a six-story downtown condominium-retail complex yet to be approved.
If the community meets that with an investment of public dollars in Port Angeles schools, it will completely transform the community, Brewer recalled Haguewood saying.
“To stay on this path is transformational, from an impression standpoint and, I think, for the students that are going to be going through our school district,” Haguewood said Wednesday.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].