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Ferndale School District sign outside the administration building on Vista Drive (October 22, 2016). Photo: My Ferndale News

Ferndale School Board approves bringing voters new levy proposal in November

FERNDALE, Wash. — At last night’s June 16th special meeting, the Ferndale School Board approved by unanimous vote to put a Programs and Operations Replacement Levy proposal on the November 2020 General Election ballot. This after voters did not approve a $15,360,000-per-year 4-year replacement levy proposal with the maximum allowed mil rate (cost per $1,000 of assessed property value) of $2.50 on the February 11, 2020 special election ballot.

Washington state law permits bringing another levy proposal to the voters once more within a year in the event the first attempt is not approved. 

The board approved bringing a smaller levy with a $2.17 mil rate over 2-years to the voters on the April 28th Special Election ballot but then opted to remove it after the COVID-19 pandemic response forced many businesses to close and lay off or furlough staff.

Voters in 2015 approved a mil rate of $3.70 for the current 2016-2020 levy but rate caps subsequently mandated by the state legislature resulted in reductions in the actual rate. As a result, while allowed to apply a mil rate of $2.50 during 2020, the School Board opted for $2.17 instead.

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The brief discussion last night focused on the board directors’ desire to pass a levy closer to the $2.00 mil rate. But there was a shared concern that the current economic climate, made worse with the prospect of Alcoa Intalco Works laying off 700 workers and the Ferndale School District facing their own layoffs in the absence of a levy for the upcoming school year, made that an unlikely prospect.

A motion was made to put a 2-year replacement levy proposal with a $1.50 mil rate on the November 3rd General Election ballot and it passed unanimously. The proposal will require a simple majority (more than 50%) to be approved.

Board Director Melinda Cool said of the replacement levy proposal, “[If it passes] the people can feel what the school district is like with that $1.50 and hopefully [in 2 years] we will have better economic times and [voters] will also more clearly recognize what a levy pays for and that it’s worth it.” She added, “If we don’t pass it then we absolutely have to run something in February for the next year because we’re not going to go for 2 years with nothing.”

Directors asked Ferndale School District Superintendent Linda Quinn and Assistant Superintendent Mark Deebach what was being forecast regarding state funding in the upcoming years. Both agreed that while nothing was for certain, all signs pointed toward reductions in state funding. Quinn added, “Any federal money that we receive, like CARES Act money or any other supplemental money, will more likely than not be offset with reductions from the state.”

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Voters approved a $112 million bond proposition for a new high school and building upgrades around the district with 62% approval in the February 2019 Special Election. It took 3 attempts at bringing the bond proposal in different forms to the voters before it was approved. The initial attempt in 2014 received about 30% voter support and support just missed achieving the required 60% in when it was returned on the November 2018 General Election ballot.

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