PORT TOWNSEND — Voters will decide four measures for three Jefferson County school districts during Tuesday’s special election.
On the ballot is a $12.3 million school construction bond measure for the Quilcene School District, two replacement levies for the Port Townsend School District, and a replacement educational programs and operations (EP&O) levy for the Brinnon School District.
Ballots must be returned by 8 p.m. Tuesday — either hand-delivered to drop boxes or mailed in time to carry a Tuesday postmark — to be counted in the election. The Jefferson County Auditor’s Office, which ordinarily is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with have extended hours on Tuesday, closing at 8 p.m.
About 16,306 ballots were mailed to registered voters on Jan. 19. The Jefferson County Auditor’s Office reported Friday that more than 5,500 had been returned, a voter turnout so far of about 34 percent.
Neighboring Clallam County is the only county in Washington state that has no special elections on Tuesday.
The Quilcene School District is asking voters to approve a $12.3 million bond for construction of a new elementary school, a new Career and Technical Education building, an improved weights room and improvements to athletic fields.
The bond, if approved with a 60 percent supermajority, would replace a capital levy now in place. It has a tax rate this year of $1.74 per $1,000 of assessed value, according to Quilcene Superintendent Frank Redmond.
”So what we would like to do is replace the levy with the bond at the same tax rate,” he said. “So if voters approved the bond, then next year their school taxes will remain the same and we will just continue that tax rate, which we figure will be the next 20 years.”
Redmond said that the elementary school, which was built in 1946 and has had a couple of minor updates since, is outdated and past its useful lifespan.
“The cost of remodeling, in particular the cost to bring it up to the current seismic code, is more than what it would cost to replace the entire building,” Redmond said.
Quilcene has been revitalizing its CTE programs and is now at the point where a CTE building is crucial to student success, the superintendent said.
“We want to build a purposeful career and technical education maker space that will provide the opportunity for our students to get the type of education that our students will need to go onto both the post-secondary education and their careers after high school,” Redmond said.
Port Townsend School District is asking voters to approve both an EP&O levy and and capital projects levy. Both replace existing levies that will expire this year.
The three-year EP&) levy would support library, arts, athletics, nutrition, special education and extracurricular activities, said Port Townsend Superintendent Linda Rosenbury.
“School districts in Washington state rely on local levies to cover the costs of learning and operation not provided for by the state,” she explained.
”For example, the state funding formula does not provide any funding for athletics. While we collect sports fees from students, they do not cover the full cost of coaches, buses, equipment, and fields for practice and competition.”
The state also does not provide full funding for the district’s three libraries or for its art, music, and drama programs, she said.
”State funds also do not cover the full costs of maintaining and upgrading the publicly-owned school facilities. Local levy funds allow us to maintain and preserve these physical assets for the community,” Rosenbury said.
This levy would collect $3.45 million in 2023 through an estimated 90 cents per $1,000 assessed value property tax rate, expected to decrease to 86 cents per $1,000 in 22024 when $3.55 million would be collected and go down again to 79 cents per $1,000 to collect $3.53 million in 2025.
If approved, the capital projects levy would fund the installation of solar panels at Salish Coast Elementary school, improved accessibility for disabled students at Port Townsend High School and Blue Heron Middle School, a seismic study at PTHS, and technology upgrades to help ensure student access across the district.
The capital levy would collect $1.75 million in 2023 through an estimated 46 cents per $1,000 assessed value property tax. In 2024, $2 million would be collected through an estimated property tax of 48 cents per $1,000 and in 2025, it would collect another $2 million through an estimated 45 cents per $1,000 property tax.
“Technology is another important piece,’ Rosenbury said.
“Students need to be connected at home and at school to the internet, so they can do research and use collaborative tools and we have to refresh our student devices about every five years. We are not fully funded for that through the state so we rely on levies.”
The Brinnon School District, which offers classes through the eighth grade, seeks to put into place a two-year EP&O levy to replace one expiring this year.
Some of the things this levy would cover are breakfast and lunch programs, student counseling, and facility improvements.
If approved, the district would collect $327,395 in 2023 through a 92 cents per $1,000 assessed value property tax. In 2024, the levy would collect $337,217 through a 91 cent per $1,000 tax.
Brinnon Superintendent Patricia Beathard could not be reached for comment.
Levies require only simple majorities for passage.
Drop box locations for Jefferson County are:
• Port Townsend — Jefferson County Courthouse’s back parking lot and in front of the courthouse steps, 1820 Jefferson St., as well as in the auditor’s office.
• Nordland — Nordland Fire Station, 6633 Flagler Road.
• Port Hadlock — Jefferson County Library, 620 Cedar Ave., next to the book drop in the parking lot.
• Quilcene — Quilcene Community Center, 294952 U.S. Highway 101.
• Port Ludlow — 93 Beaver Valley Road in the parking lot of the Olympic Peninsula Gateway Visitor Center.
• Brinnon — Brinnon Community Center, 306144 U.S. Highway 101.
Voters can register for the election in person at the Auditor’s office at the Jefferson County Courthouse at 1820 Jefferson St., in Port Townsend until the polls close at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Before then, registration also can be done online at https://co.jefferson.wa.us/1272/Voter-Resources.
Live streaming election processing is online at https://co.jefferson.wa.us/1484/Election-Cameras. Those unable to observe online are asked to call 360-385-9119 to make arrangements for on-site observing.
More information on the Jefferson County elections can be found at https://co.jefferson.wa.us/1266/Elections.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.