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School Board votes to delay levy vote

Ferndale School Board regular meeting at Vista Middle School library (February 25, 2020). Photo: My Ferndale News

FERNDALE, Wash. — The Ferndale School Board held their monthly regular a special meeting in a virtual sense tonight via a group online video conference. While fraught with technical challenges, they were able to hold an active discussion around whether to continue planning for a levy to be brought back to the voters on the April Special Election ballot or not.

The board brought a 4-year School Programs and Operations Replacement Levy for 2021 through 2024 with a $2.50 mil rate ($15,360,000 in property taxes) to the voters in a February 11th Special Election. It failed to get voter approval with 56.2% of 8,795 voters opposed.

Soon after the February ballots had been counted, the board approved bringing a smaller levy to the voters on the April 28th Special Election ballot. This levy proposal would have a $2.17 mil rate (cost per $1,000 of assessed property value).

Ferndale School District Superintendent Linda Quinn told the board directors she had been asked by the Whatcom County Auditor to consider removing the levy proposal from the April Special Elections ballot. The request was due to concerns of being able to have enough staff in the County Auditor’s Office to produce, mail and count the ballots in light of the current COVID-19 outbreak. In addition, much of that work is not conducive to social distancing measures, Quinn said.

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Director Melinda Cool pointed out that many in the community are likely to be facing worse financial prospects in coming months and that environment would not be conducive to passing the levy. The other directors agreed and some expressed their unhappiness at the prospect of layoffs in light of the levy not appearing on the ballot until the November 3rd General Election. It would be possible to place it on the August 4th Primary Election but that would be too late to avoid layoffs for the upcoming school year.

Quinn asked the directors if they wanted to proactively remove the levy from the April ballot in light of the possibility the decision may be made for them anyway.

The directors voted unanimously in favor of removing the levy proposal from the April Special Election ballot. The discussion about which future election will be used to bring it to the voters remains to be decided.

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