'That's shocking': Sequim School District voters soundly reject $154 million bond measure
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Michael McAleer, left, a member of Citizens for Sequim Schools, left, praises the efforts of the group's chairman, Dave Mattingley, to attempt passage of the bond measure at a gathering Tuesday night. —Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

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Election results
Initial results tallied Tuesday night in all-mail elections in the Sequim and Cape Flattery school districts.

School District
General obligation bonds

Approved 4,682 43.52%
Rejected 6,077 56.48%

Clallam County
Approved 4,628 43.61%
Rejected 5,985 56.39%

Jefferson County (Gardiner)
Approved 54 36.99%
Rejected 92 63.01%
SEQUIM –– School district officials are considering their next move after voters rejected a request for a $154 million bond to renovation of Sequim schools and facilities.

“That's shocking. That's a disappointing number,” John Bridge, school board president, said at the Clallam County Courthouse after results were announced.

“What are we going to do now with these needs that aren't going away?” he asked.

Voters in the district that spans parts of Clallam and Jefferson counties rejected the measure with a 56.5 percent margin in Tuesday's first count of the election.

The school district asked for $154,325,000 worth of bonds to fund construction of a new elementary school, an extensive remodel and renovation of the high school and two existing elementary schools and build a new athletic complex.

The bonds would have taxed district landowners at an estimated $2.24 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

The vote was yes, 4,682 votes, or 43.52 percent; no, 6,077 votes, or 56.48 percent.

The bond measure required a 60 percent majority for passage.

The first count included 10,759 ballots of the 21,851 mailed to voters April 2, a 49.3 percent turnout.

The first count was of all ballots received by the elections departments through Tuesday.

Clallam County will count again by 4:30 p.m. Friday. Jefferson County won't count more ballots until the election is certified May 6.

Elections officials in both counties had no estimate of how many more ballots will be counted. To be counted, ballots must have been postmarked on or before Tuesday or deposited in a county drop box by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

The school board voted in February to put the construction package before voters, saying aging facilities were running out of room and were not able to keep properly secured.

The district also will not have enough classrooms to house a doubling of kindergarten students as it implements all-day kindergarten classes at Helen Haller and Greywolf elementary schools.

“The needs do not go away,” Superintendent Kelly Shea said.

“We just have to go back to the drawing board and see where we go from here.”

The project list for the construction package was assembled by a citizen committee that reviewed the district's facilities for the greater part of 2013.

In December, the committee forwarded a $175 million list to the school board, which pared it down to the $154 million list.

“I thought our community facilities group did a great job of determining what our needs were, and our district staff did a great job of getting information out,” Bridge said. “I guess we have to take another look at this.”

Board member Mike Howe feared at the time the list would be unpalatable to voters, but voted with the rest of the board to put it on the April 22 ballot.

“I thought it was a big number, and I had a lot of concerns it was too much to ask of our residents right now,” Howe said Tuesday.

“The voters gave us that message loud and clear tonight. And it wasn't even close.”

Both Howe and Bridge said the board will consider future options at its next meeting May 5.

Opponents of the measure grew louder through a series of April forums with school officials, saying the tax increase was unaffordable.

“It's supposed to be a retirement village,” bond opponent Bryan Carter said Tuesday.

“The people I meet in my shop are all retirees, and they're living on limited income” and don't have school-aged children.
Carter, who painted a “Vote No” sign of the front window of his Kiwi's Fish and Chips shop at 173 W. Washington St., said the bond would have added $1,400 to the taxes on his $800,000 home.

For the $217,000 average Sequim home, the bond would have added $368.90.

“I'm proud that we had so many people participate, regardless of what side of the issue they fell on,” Shea said. “I hope they continue to stay engaged.”

Shea hoped the opponents would continue their involvement as the school board considers its next steps.

“I'm proud that we had so many people participate, regardless of what side of the issue they fell on,” Shea said. “I hope they continue to stay engaged.”

Concerned over the tax bill impacts of the bond, Jeff Killian was a regular at the district's forums on the bond.

He said Tuesday he plans to stay involved and to bring along others to help the district find a solution for its facilities.

“We don't have a whole lot of people who have a whole lot of money here,” Killian said. “What we do have is a whole lot of people with a whole lot of smarts who can solve this in an affordable, reasonable way.”

For Shea, the tax message was received.

“It was about money,” he said. “Toward the end there, when we got more input from the community, that was something we were hearing more and more.”

Clallam County's initial turnout was 49.2 percent and Jefferson County's was 53.5 percent.

Combined turnout from the two counties' initial count was 49.3 percent.

The next Clallam County count will be by 4:30 p.m. Friday. The Jefferson County count will updated when the election is certified May 6.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 23. 2014 2:44AM
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