Levy redux

By James Robinson
Posted 4/10/24



With ballot drop boxes now open for the April 23 special election, Quilcene School District officials are hoping for a successful levy increase this time after an identical …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Levy redux




With ballot drop boxes now open for the April 23 special election, Quilcene School District officials are hoping for a successful levy increase this time after an identical ballot question failed in February.

“We got complacent,” said Anne Bessey, a member of the ‘Yes’ committee. “This community has always supported the school, and the defeat was a blow, but, also a wake-up call. I’m optimistic this time. We have a truly fired up committee that has committed to passing this vital levy.”

The Feb. 13 ballot measure, called the Quilcene School District No. 48 Proposition No. 1 Replacement Educational Programs and Operations Levy (EP & O), failed by 25 votes – 48% voted in favor and 51% voted against. There were 809 votes cast. The levy needed a simple majority to pass, and it was the only school district levy question to fail on the north Olympic Peninsula. Voters approved levy increases for the Brinnon, Chimacum and Queets/Clearwater school districts.

Following the failed vote, the Quilcene School Board voted in a special meeting to place the same levy language on the April 23 special election ballot. School district officials and levy supporters said poor communication led to failure at the ballot box.

“One of the things we garnered from the community was that our communication wasn’t clear,” said Ron Moag, superintendent of Quilcene schools. Moag said the district relied largely on web content to send its message, but in a recent community meeting, organizers learned that a more low-tech approach might have helped.

“This time we got organized,” said Bessey. “We formed a citizens committee, printed signs, multiple mailings, phone calling etc. We held a very successful town hall meeting that was well attended. People are verbalizing their support and admitting they just didn’t pay attention before."

While the levy supporters’ approach may have changed, the ballot language hasn’t.

According to Jefferson County election documents, and if approved, collections would begin in 2025, with a levy rate of $1.35 per $1,000 in assessed value. According to those same documents, the levy would collect $904,537 in 2025, $949,764 in 2026, $997,253 in 2027 and $1,047,115 in 2028 for a total of $3.89 million collected over the four years.

“Every district in the state of Washington needs to run one of these levies every so often. It fills the gap that basic education doesn’t fund,” Moag said. “Our preschool is funded by this levy, the garden program. It fills the gap in so many ways. If we didn’t have the levy we would have a very bare-bones kind of educational experience.”

Moag said the current levy expires in December of 2024, which is why the district is keen to put the question back to voters. In addition, without the levy funding, Moag explained, the district would be ineligible for other sources of state funding, such as timber harvest funds and Local Effort Assistance Funds (LEA).

Money from the levy, according to the voters’ guide, would be used to pay for teachers, support staff, counselors, curriculum/technology, athletics and co-curricular activities, transportation, custodial, maintenance and supplies. The district has provided a detailed breakdown on how it intends to allocate funding. (See sidebar)


Arguments Against


“The community's lack of support for this levy proposal is a reflection of broader concerns about the Board's priorities and fiscal responsibility,” wrote Roger Sorensen in the Jefferson County Voters’ Pamphlet. “A ‘no’ vote sends a message that improvements in governance and accountability must precede any further financial commitments. It is time for the Quilcene School Board to take decisive action to address these issues and work towards regaining the community’s trust and support. You are urged to consider more cost-effective educational alternatives and vote ‘No.’”

Sorensen continued, “Let us demand fiscal responsibility and improved educational outcomes before committing more of our hard-earned dollars. It is time for accountability and excellence, not unchecked spending.”

Sean Hames, co-chair of the Yes committee, said, “I think it's important because the programs and operations that this levy supports help to round out a student's education. Without the levy, there is a real possibility that the school will be forced to decide which and how many of these programs will need to be cut with decreased financial support. Providing students with opportunities that expand beyond the state's minimum requirements for education is something I believe is necessary and worth supporting.”

You can read the full text of arguments for and against online at: https://co.jefferson.wa.us/DocumentCenter/View/18276/2024-Apr-S-LVP-QSD-PROP-1?bidId=


Where to vote


Ballot drop boxes opened on April 3 and they are able to take ballots until 8 p.m. on Election Day. Ballot drop boxes are located throughout Jefferson County, but only four can accept the Quilcene special election ballots.

Two ballot drop boxes are located at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Port Townsend. One is outside the courthouse, the other is located in the County Auditor’s Office inside the courthouse.

Outside of Port Townsend, there is a ballot drop box at the Quilcene Community Center and at the Jefferson County Library in Port Hadlock. On Election Day, in-person voting will be available at the Jefferson County Auditor’s Office from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The deadline for online or mail-in voter registration is April 15. Washington state allows in-person voter registration until 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Online registration, additional voter information and levy information can be found online at: co.jefferson.wa.us/elections, votewa.gov. at https://www.qsd48.org/.