What are people saying about the levy?

By Herb Porter, Ferndale
City of Ferndale Councilmember

October 17, 2020, My Ferndale News

Why Vote for the Levy?

We are living in unprecedented times. The year 2020, will surely be one that all of us will be talking about for many years to come. With the devastating impact on our society and economy of COVID-19 and the closure of Intalco, many of us are questioning the wisdom of paying more taxes when a considerable segment of our population is struggling from unemployment and some are facing the possibility of being homeless. So why vote in favor of the levy? There are several reasons.

To begin with, we need to remember that the purpose of the levy is to provide additional funding, not provided by the State Legislature. This is used to supplement school operations, which includes special education, academic support for students, and staffing for essential program areas, apart from basic education. A few years ago, the State Legislature told districts that it would eliminate the need for school levies by fully funding all public schools. In less than two years, the Legislature went back on its promise. As a result, all districts were told that, once again, they would need to implement school levies at the local level.

Last February, all Whatcom County School Districts passed their levies, except for Ferndale. At the time, the district was asking for a replacement levy of $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for four years, which was lower than the rate asked by every other school district. Because of the pandemic, the school board opted not to place it on the April ballot. In the process, the District listened to voter feedback and reduced the rate to $1.50 per $1,000 for two years.

As a result of the initial levy failure, the district laid off more than 100 staff members, together with additional cuts in services, technology, and programs. If the levy does not pass this coming November, more draconian measures will need to be taken, as many additional services and programs and more staff members will be eliminated.

A year and half ago, Ferndale voters approved a bond for building a new Ferndale High School, together with other critical infrastructure improvements in other district facilities. The legislature has historically considered school bonds a local issue. Unfortunately, with the passage of this bond, the renewed need for an operations levy, together with the current pandemic and the aluminum smelter shutdown, all these things totally have resulted in a perfect storm. Understandably, many voters feel that paying more taxes at the present time, is just “a bridge too far”.

As stated earlier, levy dollars fund many programs not included in the formula for “basic education”. An example of this is technology, which includes the provision of student computers for use in the classroom and at home. Current remote learning is only possible because of the availability of this type of learning tool. A failed levy will do away with that type of support. It will also adversely impact special education programs, lower class sizes, the eight-period high school schedule, elective and advanced course classes, support staff, teachers, athletic and music programs, and other extracurricular school activities.

The last time Ferndale failed a levy was back in the 1970s, almost 50 years ago. As I said at the outset, these are truly unprecedented times. Having a school system that is financially stable, will result in many positive dividends for our community. If passed, the levy will go into effect next year, thus providing the district those critical funds it will need to move forward in providing a quality education for our students. The current levy rate of $2.50 will be replaced by one that is only $1.50. This is not an additional tax. It will replace the one that is set to expire this December.

This pandemic will eventually run its course and we can all look forward to better days ahead. We all agree that “in person” learning is the best model for many good reasons. Psychologists and sociologists tell us that we all need that vital personal interaction. Hopefully, that will happen sooner than later. In the meantime, let’s get our Ferndale schools financially prepared and ready to resume their normal operations and activities. As a fellow Ferndale voter, I would ask you to support our schools and strongly consider voting for our school levy this coming November 3rd. Thank you.

By Greg Hansen, Ferndale
City of Ferndale Mayor
October 17, 2020, My Ferndale News, Ferndale Record

I am writing to ask all of my Ferndale neighbors to join me in voting “Yes” for the Ferndale School District’s Replacement Operations Levy.

As an educator, a child and grandchild of educators, a Ferndale Alumni, and a the parent of a current Ferndale student and a Windward High School Alumni, I know there is nothing more essential than the investment we make in our children. Preparing our young people to become thoughtful and productive members of our community is one of the most important things we collectively do as a society. It is our obligation to our children, grandchildren, neighbors’ children, future employees, and future leaders.

As Mayor, I work every day to ensure that our city is competitive today and into the future. Investment in K-12 education is much more than simply an investment in our youth, it is a shared investment in future leadership, our workforce, and our community as a whole.

I understand those of you that have disagreements with some school district decisions but let’s not take those grievances out on our youth. Without this replacement Operations Levy, proposed cuts to the Ferndale School District’s budget will have a profound impact on our schools and extracurricular programs that will set our children back for a generation.

These are difficult times and we need to be supporting our students, not gutting their classrooms. Please make sure you complete your ballot – this measure is near the end, but it is not to be missed. On or before November 3rd, 2020 please vote “Yes” on the Ferndale School District’s replacement Operations Levy – It’s a matter of pride!

By Marv Waschke, Whatcom County
October 17, 2020, My Ferndale News

I intend to vote in favor of the revised Ferndale School District levy, but I do so with caution.

I expect that ten years from now, we will look back on 2019 as a time at least as strange as the 1920s and 30s were to me growing up in the 1960s and listening to my parents and grandparents talk about pre-war America.

I don’t expect schools in 2030 to be anything like schools in 2019. And I expect the population of Whatcom County and Ferndale School District to be far different than it is today or was a few years ago.

I worked from home on Waschke Road for a New York City corporation. My bosses and peers were folks living in Brooklyn and Manhattan. My official office was on the Seattle east side and about half the team I managed was spread between Olympia and Everett. The other half was in New York, Hyderabad, Prague, London, Chicago, and a half dozen other places I’ve forgotten. But my home address has always been in Whatcom County, my working office in the farmhouse my grandfather built.

I get together with a group of software architects on Friday afternoon/evenings to share gossip over a glass of beer. (Fringe Jam IPA for me, thank you.) We are in every U.S. time zone. Most of these old crabs are field architects who used to spend their working weeks in offices or on the road visiting sites. I was a leading indicator, a product architect working remotely from home most of the time. Now, we all work from home.

In the day, I had to twist arms to get permission to work from home. Now people are ordered to work from home. Companies all over the country are ordering or allowing their employees to work remotely.
They are not going back.

They’re buying houses in places like Ferndale and driving up property values. There’s good and bad in that; it’s a reality to deal with (insider tip: there is no remote beer).

We hear about the horrors of remote school. Griping always gets a platform. If you look carefully, there are growing pains, but also success stories. My grandchildren were all homeschooled before covid-19, using remote learning facilities. After COVID-19, I don’t expect them ever to be cooped up in the traditional classrooms that many of us secretly, or not-so-secretly hated.

Schools will change. I hope the Ferndale school board has the wisdom to get in front of the curve instead of building a facility for the previous decade’s schooling model.

When the first goat shows up at the rodeo, the smart cowboys learn to rope goats. COVID-19 may be the first goat, but I’ll take bets it’s not the last. Plan for the future, not the past.

Vote for the levy, the kids deserve the best, but insist that the money is used for the future, not a monument to times past.

By Hope Jose-Day, Ferndale
October 17, 2020, My Ferndale News

Hello, my name is Hope Jose-Day and I am the ASB President of Ferndale High School. I write to you today on behalf of the student body about an urgent matter in our home of Ferndale, WA right now and come to you in hopes of your help. As you may or may not be aware, the Ferndale School District is running a replacement school-funding levy on the ballot in November. This levy is a two-year replacement levy running at 1.5 – a rate lower than the previous 2.17 levy – and will provide the funds for the district’s educational and extracurricular programs. These programs include sports, cultural outreach classes and clubs, English-language-learning classes, and advanced placement and honors classes, – just to name a few. The levy also funds many of the beloved teachers, para-educators, and administrators who work so hard for the well-being and education of our students. The need for these programs and people within the Ferndale district is essential, especially during the harsh times of Covid-19. Support is the most important thing that we can give to each other as a community during times of uncertainty, and what the students need now is just that. For example, the transition to remote learning would not be able to be so supported nor extensive without the money this levy will provide. Students need the laptops that are funded from the levy during times of remote learning, and the absence of such technology would simply be leaving many students in the dark, confused, frightened, and unsupported. But the crisis does not end here.

Another thing I believe that is important to note is that the failure of this levy would be a detrimental loss to not only the Ferndale School District, but of the community. These programs, educators and students working together to make up a network that is the foundation for growth within the community. It is thanks to such colorful programs and educators like those funded by the levy that Ferndale can take pride in preparing successful students off to hopeful post-high school adventures. Without providing such recourses, a downward spiraling affect will result because the center of emotional and intellectual creation of Ferndale simply dissipating. The hundreds of jobs lost and the lack of support for the school district would no longer become a question of school or community, but reflect on the city as a whole.

Obviously, the failure of this levy is a price to great to bare to the small town of Ferndale, who has shown such support and effort towards the school district in the past. My hope is to encourage everyone reading this to take action, whether that be on the ballot or through other means of support. The students need you, and the students speak to you now and ask you to help us during such a difficult time for us all. The students are asking you to vote yes for us now.

By Linda Schonborn, Ferndale
October 17, 2020, My Ferndale News

Please vote to approve the Ferndale School Levy which will be on the November 3rd ballot.
This Levy will help ensure that Ferndale schools will have money for student services like, smaller class sizes, Special Ed classes, 8 period high school schedules allowing for more electives, advanced learning, and technology for in school and at home learning which is vital during the pandemic. The Levy will also include funding for teachers, nurses, maintenance personnel and custodians.

The passage of this Levy will also help allow for Ferndale Schools to provide some extracurricular activities such as athletics, art, drama, band, choir, and the wonderful musicals put on by the Ferndale High School’s amazingly talented students and their directors.

Three of our grandchildren have attended Ferndale schools. Their lives have been enriched by the education they have received. If many of these programs are no longer available to students it will be a sad day for the community of Ferndale. We must approve these funds for the educational opportunities they bring to our children. Providing the best education possible is vital to their success in life. It is also important for the community to have schools we can all be proud of. Please pass this levy for our schools, our children, and our community.

By Laura Rehberger, Ferndale
October 17, 2020, My Ferndale News

Ferndale Friends and Neighbors…let’s talk about the Ferndale School District Replacement Levy and how this vote will directly impact our community, and for home owners how voting yes will protect our property values. This is very important, so if you are considering not voting Yes for the Levy, please take a few minutes to read this letter to make sure you are informed and fully understand what it will mean for our schools, community and property values if this levy does not pass.

As a lifelong resident of Ferndale, a property owner, A Realtor and as parent of an FHS senior (and one who has graduated), I am very nervous for the future of Ferndale if our community does not come together and pass this Levy. Hopefully everyone is aware that FSD will be asking voters to approve a two year operational levy renewal in November. (These funds are very different from the Bond funds. Bond funds can only be used for buildings and Levy dollars are used to help fully fund education since the State does not.) Operational Levies are not unique to Ferndale. All local districts rely on funding from levies to fund things like: sports, music, school nurses, counselors, librarians, fine arts, technology, para educators, teachers, electives at the high school level, etc. Sadly, Ferndale is the only community in our entire county who did not pass their levy in February and we absolutely need to get it right this time around.

Ferndale School District knows that many Ferndale families are struggling. They have made major cuts already so they don’t have to ask our community to renew the levy at the current rate. (If students were back in school, families would definitely feel the sacrifices the District was already forced to make in 2020 with layoffs and budget cuts.) If we approve this levy, our current tax rate would actually drop from $2.17 to $1.50, SAVING tax payers $.67 per $1000. So…if your home is valued at $400,000, this renewal will save you $267 per year (The District was hoping to renew at a much higher rate prior to Covid-19 impacts, but has made the decision to ask for the bare minimum. At this rate, there will still be many cuts).

As a Realtor and a property owner, I am extremely nervous for our community and our property values if we do not pass this Levy. Our property values will definitely be negatively impacted if people are unwilling to move to Ferndale because we have poor schools. (I already have had clients hesitant to move to Ferndale because they’ve heard the schools are struggling and the Levy failed; or clients who tell me they’d rather be in Bellingham for the better schools.) Many families will choose to move out of Ferndale to neighboring districts if this levy fails and who is going to want to buy a house in a district that has a poorly funded school district and lacks the basics like sports and extra curricular activities? Our homes values will drop as people move away and new families choose other cities with better schools. Great schools bring up our property values and poor schools drive them down- plain and simple!

For those of you who argue that FSD should be saving money right now while kids are learning remotely and that they aren’t providing adequate education due to Covid-19, please consider that kids will be returning to school soon and that creating an online learning platform for all students in K-12 was expensive. This levy vote will affect our schools for at least 2 years. What kind of schools do we want when our kids get to return to school is what we need to be asking? We need to give our kids hope that school will resume eventually and when it does, they will go back to the great schools they know. If we do not pass this levy, sadly the Ferndale Schools we all knew and loved will look completely different. Please vote YES next month. Our schools, our students, our community and our home values are depending on it.

By Satpal S. Sidhu
Whatcom County Executive

October 13, 2020, Northwest Citizen

I would like to share my support for the Ferndale School District request to voters to pass the operations levy on November 3. The District has already lowered the levy rate from $2.50 to $1.50 after residents turned down the last levy. The Bond issue approved last year was to build new facilities. This current levy directly supports student education programs and technology upgrades to stay competitive with other students in neighboring communities. Operations levies are critical to maintain essential services like school nurses, counselors and psychologists, and provide access to current technology for student success. It is important for Ferndale students to be fully prepared for post-secondary education and jobs in this competitive world. Ferndale has already made deep budget cuts and has suffered because of the Alcoa shutdown.

Over the past 30 years, I have served on school levy committees for Meridian and Lynden school districts. I know how dependent our school operations are on local funding. In my view, this is the best investment any community can make in their own kids’ education and secure future. I would recommend that residents of Ferndale give serious consideration to passing the levy on November 3rd.

By Linda Quinn
Ferndale School District Superintendent
October 13, 2020, Ferndale Record

One constant has remained during these difficult and uncertain times in Ferndale: our public schools are serving and supporting students and families. While we may not be in school buildings now, our teachers and staff are providing education, meals and support for our students. Teaching and learning continues, ensuring strong schools remain the backbone of our community.

In the Nov. 3 election, we are asking our community to consider a school funding measure that will replace our existing School Programs and Operations Levy at a lower tax rate. This is not a new tax. We do not make this ask lightly. We’ve tightened our belts significantly, and the cuts we were forced to make last spring hurt deeply. Further cuts would be even more destructive.

If approved, this levy would replace the levy that expires at the end of December at the new lower rate. The new levy would begin in January 2021 and run for two years. It would continue funding for school staff, services, technology and student opportunities. A levy is like a magazine subscription. It lasts for a specified number of months, during which time you receive a magazine each month. When the subscription ends, you either renew it or you stop getting the magazine. Our last levy “subscription” is running out. We need to renew it, or we will need to discontinue many educational programs for Ferndale students.

K-12 education is still not fully funded by the state. The replacement levy bridges the gap between what the state funds and what our schools need. We have mandates from the state for what level of service we need to provide, but we do not receive all the funding to deliver on these mandates. So Ferndale School District, like nearly every other district across our state and all other Whatcom County districts, asks for local levies to help fund our day-to-day operations. All levy funds stay local to support our Ferndale schools.

With COVID-19, the levy is more important than ever. The levy will continue funding critical staff during 2021 and 2022, including nurses, custodians, and counselors. When we return to school buildings, we want to ensure we have the staff to meet these needs. The levy also funds and supports special education, advanced learning, lower class sizes, and our 8-period high school schedule, which allows more elective classes.

The levy funds technology so we can provide access to computers for students in K-12 for learning at home or at school. And the levy funds many of the opportunities that make our schools so special for students, like sports, band and theater.

I invite you to learn more about our replacement levy at https://www.ferndalesd.org/levy2020 and let me know if you have any questions. I hope you will all vote by Nov. 3

By Sharon Shewmake, Bellingham
State Representative, 42nd Leg. District

October 10, 2020, My Ferndale News, Ferndale Record

These are difficult times for our community, our nation, our schools and our families, but we will get through it the way we always have–by coming together. Even if we can only come together virtually, schools are places where we do so much more than educate our children, we also build community. Which is why I urge a yes vote on the Ferndale levy.

The Ferndale School levy will replace the current levy on November 3 and the $1.50 rate is less than voters are paying right now. Restoring our levy funding allows the Ferndale School District to maintain staffing levels, including critical staff like school nurses, psychologists, counselors and social workers. The levy funds much-needed technology for our students and staff, including providing students in grades 6-12 a computer, which can be used for both classroom and at home learning. These were good investments before the pandemic, and they are crucial investments now.

By Jon Mutchler, Ferndale
Former City of Ferndale Mayor
October 10, 2020, My Ferndale News, Ferndale Record

We must pass the Ferndale school levy. Or go backwards.

I’ve lived here 40 years and our institutions and services have improved dramatically over that time. This is an amazingly desirable place to live (just ask any realtor).

Ferndale has a great reputation, in large part, because we have a public education system that has always been supported by the community. And our schools that have earned that respect.

But these are unprecedented times and for the first time since the 1970s, Ferndale failed to pass its normal operations levy in February. Said another way: about a third of our teachers weren’t even alive the last time a Ferndale Schools operations levy failed.

We have a chance to make that right on November 3 and prevent going backwards as a community. And let’s be clear: this is a “scaled-back” ask for our children and dedicated staff: If this levy passes you will actually see a REDUCTION of this portion of your property taxes going forward of around $200-250/year.

“But, I don’t use the public schools, why should I care?” The Mutchler family homeschooled our children up to Running Start. Apart from sports and music, we didn’t use the schools a lot. But we see the BIG PICTURE of living in a great city which necessitates a great school district that still directly and indirectly benefits all of us.

These are strange times. I never worried about school levies. But I am deeply concerned that should this levy fail we would make a terrible statement about ourselves as a community. It will impact the job market, the value of our homes, and most importantly, the quality of education we must give our children.

By Michele Barmore, Ferndale
October 6, 2020, My Ferndale News, Ferndale Record

I am a 20 year employee of the Ferndale School District and Ferndalian lifer. As seems to be the case with every other topic in our world today, the Levy discussion has brought about some pretty polarizing perspective and opinions in our community. I totally get it because I have understood, and even agreed with, arguments on BOTH sides of the debate. Just because I am employed by the district does not mean that I have been in agreement with every decision. Quite the opposite actually. I have written many an email, met with various school board members, and had more face to face conversations with our administration than I can count. I’ve asked my questions and shared my concerns. I even ran for school board despite the fact that I was told I couldn’t because of working for the district. My point is… I have tried every productive way I could think of to help make ours schools better and do what I think is best for kids.

I believe, at this point in time, the best way to make forward progress for our kids, and in turn our entire community (because whether you like it or not it is all connected) is to vote YES for this upcoming levy. We cannot make the improvements that I still believe we need if we have absolutely nothing to work with. Another levy loss would be devastating and I’m not saying that for affect. It’s a fact.

If you have been a No voter, or are planning to be one this go around, can I please just ask that you consider this…? If your vote is based on your disillusionment with our school board and/or admin, would you be willing to vote YES in November and then work on creating the change you want to see?

You can find, as I have, someone who will run against any current seated board member who you feel isn’t working for our children’s or community’s best interests. Change is possible with the right people working for us.

You are completely entitled to vote as you wish but please feel free to reach out to me if you’d like to further discuss why voting yes matters so much right now!