SEQUIM — Voters approved two levies for Sequim School District in Tuesday’s special election, providing supplemental funding for basic education services as well as funds for technology and infrastructure projects.
Clallam and Jefferson counties counted ballots on hand Wednesday after the initial returns were reported Tuesday night. The next count in Clallam County will be today. In Jefferson County, it will be before certification on Feb. 19.
Clallam County saw a voter turnout of 45.97 percent, with 14,753 ballots counted out of 32,092 provided, while Jefferson County reported a turnout of 47.12 percent, with 5,283 ballots counted out of 11,212 provided.
“We want to thank the community for, A, getting out to vote, and, B, voting in favor for both (levies),” said Sequim School District’s interim Superintendent Jane Pryne.
The district’s Educational Programs and Operations (EP&O) levy received a total of 7,608 yes votes out of 13,433 ballots cast for a 56.64 percent passage.
In Clallam County, the vote was 7,517 votes, or 56.72 percent, approval and 5,736 votes, or 43.28 percent, opposed, while in Jefferson County, 91, or 50.56 percent, approved of the measure and 89, or 49.44 percent, opposed it.
The school district’s capital projects levy won 7,868, or 58.39 percent, of the 13,474 ballots cast.
In Clallam County, the vote was 7,783 votes, or 58.55 percent, approval and 5,511 votes, or 41.45 percent, opposed.
But had it been up to the voters in the district who live in Jefferson County, the measure would have failed, with 85 votes, or 47.22 percent, approving the measure and 95 votes, or 52.78 percent, opposing it.
The four-year, $29.7 million EP&O levy replaces the Sequim district’s current local tax and pays for core learning functions not supported in the state’s basic education formula, while the four-year, $15 million capital projects levy addresses a number of building issues at each school campus and provides an overhaul of the district’s technology infrastructure.
Taxpayers in the district will pay between $1.87 ($1.24 for the EP&O levy, $0.63 for the capital projects levy) and $1.89 ($1.26/$0.63) per $1,000 of assessed value starting in 2022, district officials said.
“I didn’t have a doubt that we would pass,” said Brandino Gibson, Sequim School Board president.
“I didn’t think we’d blow this out of the water (but) the numbers were kind of about what I expected.”
The EP&O renewal levy accounts for about 17 percent of the district’s annual budget and pays for salaries for additional teachers, paraeducators, counselors and nurses, the Highly Capable program, extra-curricular activities (sports, music, drama, field trips, etc.) and other staffing costs.
“I think people understood EP&O levy monies are part of our day-to-day operation (funds),” Pryne said. “They would ask, ‘What would you do if it didn’t pass?’ I didn’t want to go down that road.”
The capital projects levy would pay for a number of projects across the district.
In November, a levy committee examined and prioritized a number of projects the district is seeking to fund, including a video surveillance system, network system, voice system district-wide; replacement of roof, heating system, network upgrades and sewer connection at Greywolf Elementary; installation of a fire alarm system at Helen Haller Elementary; replacement of a roof, gym floor repair, cafeteria floor replacement at Sequim Middle School; replacement of the heating system, science and career/technical education classroom upgrade and modernization, gym floor replacement and roof replacement among other things at Sequim High School, and replacement of the track and restrooms at the Sequim athletic stadium.
“The big thing about the capital projects levy is, it just takes care of those needs we’ve had for years,” Gibson said.
Pryne said it was key having a video made detailing district needs the capital projects levy addresses (See the video here: youtube.com/watch?v=RyDM3y5ZLMY).
“We had a community group do a video, because we can’t give (people) tours right now; I think that helped,” Pryne said.
A 2017 levy project that funded deconstruction of the former Sequim Community School left a centrally located piece of school property that some school leaders have proposed as a spot for a new elementary school, Gibson said.
“We’ve had a lot going on with school closures and COVID,” Gibson said. “Now we can move forward, whatever that may be.”
School district officials tried four times between 2014 and 2016 to pass a bond issue that would have funded a new elementary school. Each failed, with the third bond measure — in February 2016 — falling short by less than one-half of a percent of the 60 percent super-majority required.
In 2017, voters approved a three-year, $5.75 million capital project levy that paid for demolition of unused portions of the Sequim Community School and to rebuilt the central kitchen facility on the same property.
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 [email protected].