Ballots mailed for school levy votes

Patrick J. Sullivan psullivan@ptleader.com
Posted 1/24/17

The first local election of 2017 involves levy votes in three school districts, with supporters hoping to see the love reflected in the vote count, to be conducted on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14.

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Ballots mailed for school levy votes

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The first local election of 2017 involves levy votes in three school districts, with supporters hoping to see the love reflected in the vote count, to be conducted on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14.

The Jefferson County Auditor's Office is prepared to mail ballots Wednesday, Jan. 25 to 9,155 registered voters within Chimacum School District 49, to 307 voters who are part of Sequim School District 323, and to 150 voters in Quillayute Valley School District 402. Another 148 ballots were mailed Jan. 13 to voters in the military or who live overseas.

The ballot number could change, because Feb. 6 is the deadline for in-person registration for persons not currently registered in Washington.

School levies require 50 percent plus one voter approval; bond issues require 60 percent. Chimacum has had considerable success in passing levies, though not so much with the past three school bond votes.

"This is not a bond, it's a levy," said Rick Thompson, Chimacum superintendent, of the current ballot issue. "There is a real distinction in school funding."

Public school districts are also the only local taxing entities that are required by law to seek voter approval for any property tax increase.

The Chimacum maintenance and operation (M&O) levy represents 22 percent of the district's overall funding, according to Superintendent Thompson, and touches everything from staffing to textbooks, food service to transportation, and educational programs to grounds and facility maintenance.

"If we lose a fifth of our funding, [we] could not do business the same," Thompson said.

Chimacum School District's funding starts with 51.8 percent from the state general fund, 21.9 percent from local taxpayer-approved levies, 15.3 percent from state special funds, 5.3 percent from federal funds (special education, title I, for example), 1.7 percent for other school funds and 1.5 percent from federal forest funds, Thompson noted.

LEVY AMOUNTS

Chimacum is requesting a four-year replacement education M&O levy estimated to collect $3,420,000 in 2018, $3,595,000 in 2019, $3,775,000 in 2020 and $3,965,000 in 2021.

Quillayute Valley School District 402, on the West End, is requesting a four-year levy estimated to generate $714,304 in each of the four years, starting in 2018.

Sequim School District 323 (with Jefferson County voters in the Gardiner area) is requesting voter approval of two levies. There is a four-year replacement M&O levy estimated to collect $6,324,000 in 2018, $6,534,000 in 2019, $6,724,000 in 2020 and $6,924,000 in 2021. Also, there is a new three-year capital levy to renovate and expand the district's central kitchen. The capital levy is estimated to collect $681,000 in 2018, $1,549,000 in 2019 and $3,525,000 in 2020.

VOTER VALIDATION

Election rules include a validation requirement, which is based on voter turnout in the prior general election. Chimacum, for example, needs, 3,222 votes cast to validate the Feb. 14 election.

"Because we had a presidential election and our turnout was really high, it raises the turnout number we need for the entire 2017 election cycle," said Betty Johnson, Jefferson County Auditor's Office election coordinator. Validation has not been an issue since the establishment of voting by mail; however, "anything is possible," Johnson noted.

Precincts involved in the Chimacum school levy vote are 200B, 300-306, 307A, 308, 401 and 500-505. Voters in the Gardiner area within the Sequim School District are all in Precinct 101, and those in Quillayute Valley are in Precinct 600.

VOTER AWARENESS

With school election ballots being mailed this week, the county Auditor's Office staff urges people to call 395-9119 with any questions.

"As always, if you don't receive your ballot, call us," Johnson said. "We'd rather have you call us before the election than wait until after and call and say, ‘Oh, I didn't get a ballot.’”

All ballots must be physically returned by 8 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 14 or be postmarked on Feb. 14. Drop boxes are located outside the Jefferson County Library in Port Hadlock, behind the courthouse in Port Townsend, and at the Auditor's Office inside the courthouse.

“If you want your vote in the election-night count, mail it a couple of days before election night, because taking it to the post office on Feb. 13 or Feb. 14 is no guarantee it will be received by us in time,” Johnson said. Likewise, any ballots hand-delivered after about 8:30 a.m. to a drop box or the Auditor's Office itself on Election Day are typically not included in the election night count, depending on overall ballot volume.

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