School levies get thumbs up

District promises stable tax rates

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Voters approved both of the Port Townsend School District’s levies on the Feb. 12 special-election ballot.

Proposition 1, which replaces the expiring educational programs and school support levy, received 4,127 votes in favor, or 68.38 percent, to 1,908 votes against, 31.62 percent.

Proposition 2, a capital levy for safety, technology and facilities improvements, received 4,042 votes in favor, 67.01 percent, to 1,990 votes against, 32.99 percent.

“We are so grateful for the support of the Port Townsend community,” Superintendent John Polm said. “The continued support for our community’s children and the public schools is one of the best investments we can make.”

Polm said the timing of the passage of Proposition 1 will help the district complete its budget development for school operations for the 2019-20 school year, as well as its planning through fiscal year 2022.

“The three-year educational programs and school support levy will help support the quality programs our students and community enjoy here in Port Townsend,” Polm said. “We will prioritize our operations budget to best support the goals and objectives laid out by our governing board.”

As for the capital levy, Polm said its passage enables the district to move forward with “much-needed projects” in all three of its buildings, including improvements mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act at Port Townsend High School.

“The district will develop a prioritized project list moving forward,” Polm said. “We intend to upgrade the high school’s main building and annex with elevators so that there is access to all floors. We have projects at all three buildings that need to be evaluated and prioritized. Our goal is to finish the vision of Salish Coast Elementary, and to repair and upgrade facilities to better support our students, staff and community.”

Polm also assured voters they shouldn’t see a significant jump in their taxes.

The Port Townsend School District collected a rate of $1.53 per $1,000 for its education programs and operations levy in 2018.

Voters approved a levy rate of $1.66 for 2019, but it was adjusted to $1.06, due to the McCleary decision limiting the amount districts can collect per levy, either $2,500 per student or $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value, whichever is less.

To compensate, the Feb. 12 special election asked voters to approve an education programs and school support levy of $1.08, plus a capital levy of 45 cents, which add up to $1.53, the same amount voters had authorized to be collected in 2019.

Polm said that, thanks to voters passing those two levies, their combined rate in 2020 will be the same as the education programs and operations levy rate voters paid in 2018.

The combined rates for 2021 and 2022 would be $1.54 and $1.55, respectively.

“We wanted to even out what the taxpayers would be paying, so there wouldn’t be any spikes or valleys,” said Jennifer James-Wilson, vice chair of the Port Townsend School Board.

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