Clallam County measures offered by hospital, school districts

PORT ANGELES — One hospital and two school districts have levy measures on Clallam County’s special election ballot on Tuesday.

The county assessor on Jan. 24 mailed ballots to 7,075 active registered voters in Hospital District 1 (Forks Community Hospital), Crescent School District and Cape Flattery School District.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, 1,101 ballots had been accepted (15.86 percent); 1,122 had been returned for a turnout of 15.86 percent.

All three measures require a simple majority (50 percent plus one) to pass.

Forks Community Hospital

Forks Community Hospital (Clallam County Public Hospital District No. 1) is asking voters to approve a levy lid lift that would restore the property tax rate to 75 cents per $1,000 assessed value, the maximum allowed under state law. The levy rate has declined from 75 cents in 2006 — the last time the hospital asked voters for a levy increase — to the current rate of 42.8 cents.

Under state law, any levy tax property increase — a lid lift — must be approved by voters.

If the levy is approved, the hospital would collect an additional $320,000 a year — almost double the $350,000 it currently collects.

The levy represents a significant part of the hospital’s annual operating budget of more than $40 million, said CFO Paul Babcock.

“We don’t want to unduly burden the voters, but at the same time, this is one of the ways that a hospital district is able to get funding so we need to utilize this as much as we can,” he said. “It’s helpful funding certain things like treatments or needed new equipment.”

Levy funding also helps pay for charity care. Last year the hospital provided almost $900,000 in assistance for patients who were unable to pay for all or some of their care.

And last fall the hospital re-started its OB-GYN services, which had been suspended for 10 months due to lack of staffing. It was a service the community wanted and needed, Babcock said, and the hospital is committed to providing it even though it did not make economic sense.

“In a good year, we’ll have 45 to 50 births, and that’s just not enough to financially support the program, so we’re essentially doing it at a loss,” he said.

CEO Heidi Anderson said Forks Community Hospital shares the same challenges facing rural hospitals across the state: difficulty hiring and retaining professional staff; escalating equipment and supply costs; and high percentages of Medicare and Medicaid patients.

“We are losing money and we worry about our longevity,” Anderson said. “Every little bit that we can get to help us keep going and to keep services and the staff that we have is helpful to us.”

Crescent Schools

Crescent School District has two measures on the ballot: a $3.45 million education programs and operations levy and a $500,000 capital projects levy.

The EP&O levy would collect $690,000 a year for four years from 2025 to 2028. The estimated levy rates are $1.05 per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2025; $1.03 in 2026; $1 in 2027 and $0.97 in 2028.

The monies from the EP&O levy would pay for those programs and services for Crescent’s 360 students that are not funded or not fully funded by the state, such as athletics and activities, transportation, professional development for teachers and technology for students and staff.

The capital projects levy would collect $125,000 a year (the same amount as the expiring levy) over the next four years at an estimated rate starting at $0.188 per $1,000 in assessed property value in 2025; $0.182 in 2026; $0.177 in 2027 and $0.172 in 2028.

Superintendent David Bingham said a property owner with a $300,000 house would pay $3.60 more a month in taxes if both initiatives passed — or $43.20 more a year.

“We’ve done an analysis of capital needs and identified close to $1 million in projects, but if you look at the capital projects ask, it’s a half a million dollars,” he said. “So, we’ve prioritized and put together a list and do as much as we can. We’re also looking for grants.”

At the top of the list is replacing the leaky 30-year-old shop roof at an estimated cost of $170,000.

“We absolutely have to do that this summer. We’re asking for more problems if we don’t,” Bingham said.

The district is asking the community to support infrastructure, like a new roof for the shop building and upgrading lighting, and to keep popular programs it already has, like music.

“I’m not willing to draw a line in the sand and say that if the levy fails, we’ll lose programs,” Bingham said. “But if we aren’t successful, it would have a significant impact on our budget and our ability to staff.”

Cape Flattery Schools

The Cape Flattery School District’s four-year, $1.8 million EP&O replacement levy will cost taxpayers $1.84 per $1,000 in assessed property value over the next four years when the current levy expires in 2024.

It would collect $439,860 in 2024 for 2025; $453,055 in 2025 for 2026; $466,647 in 2026 for 2027; and $480,646 in 2027 for 2028.

The rate is lower than the maximum of $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed value districts are allowed under state law.

The district has campuses in Neah Bay on the Makah Reservation and in Clallam Bay. However, levy funds are earmarked for Clallam Bay School and its 100 K-12 students because the revenue is collected in that community.

Like for the Crescent School District, monies from Cape Flattery’s EP&O levy bridge the gap between state funding and what it actually costs the district to operate. Among those costs are paraeducator, counselor and school nurse salaries, as well as supplies and materials, technology upgrades and extracurricular activities like athletics.

Superintendent Michelle Parkin said signs supporting the levy can be seen around the area.

“Both communities have historically supported the schools by supporting the levies and passing the levies at a high percentage rate,” Parkin said.

Ballots must be postmarked or placed in a ballot drop box by 8 p.m. on Tuesday to be counted. Three of the nine drop boxes are at the Clallam County Courthouse, 223 E. Fourth St., Port Angeles. Two are outside the building and one is in the elections office in Room 42. The other six are in Carlsborg at 261461 U.S. Highway 101 near Sunny Farms, adjacent to Mill Road; Clallam Bay at 16990 state Highway 112 in front of the Clallam Bay Library; Forks at 500 E. Division St., outside Forks City Hall; Neah Bay at 1450 Bayview Ave., in front of Washburn’s General Store; Sekiu at 15 Sekiu Airport Road; and Sequim in the parking lot at 651 W. Washington St.

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Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at paula.hunt@peninsulanews.us.

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