Bainbridge, South Kitsap voters deciding school levies and bonds

Residents of Bainbridge Island and South Kitsap are voting on bond measures and property tax levies to support educational programs, technology, maintenance and, in South Kitsap, school construction.

POULSBO — Residents of Bainbridge Island and South Kitsap are voting on bond measures and property tax levies to support educational programs, technology, maintenance and, in South Kitsap, school construction.

The ballot deadline is 8 p.m. Feb. 14. As of Feb. 9, 18,619 of 64,576 ballots had been returned, according to the Kitsap County Auditor Elections website.

Bainbridge Island School District Proposition 1 would authorize a property tax levy of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation in 2018, $1.51 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2019, $1.52 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2020 and $1.54 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2021.

That tax levy would generate $10.4 million in 2018, $10.6 million in 2019, $10.8 million in 2020, and $11 million in 2021. The revenue would go into the district’s general fund to support educational programs and services, including teaching, instructional support, school supplies, extracurricular activities, and transportation.

Proposition 2 would authorize a property tax levy of 32 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation in 2018, and 31 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Prop. 2 would generate $2.2 million each of those four years to be used for acquisition, installation and improvement of computer technology and telecommunication systems, and equipment and facilities.

Those measures garnered no opposition in the voters’ guide. Not so in the South Kitsap School District.

South Kitsap School District propositions 1 and 2

South Kitsap’s Proposition No. 1 would replace an expiring property tax levy. The proposition would authorize a levy of $3.73 per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021, though those levies could be rolled back in the event the school district receives more state funding.

The tax levy would generate $24.3 million in 2018, $24.6 million in 2019, $25 million in 2020, and $25.5 million in 2021. The revenue would go into the district’s general fund to help support educational programs, and maintenance and operations.

Proposition 2 would authorize South Kitsap School District to issue $172.6 million in general obligation bonds — essentially a loan from bond investors, guaranteed by the district’s taxing authority. The bonds would be repaid out of annual excess property tax revenues over a period of 21 years.

The bonds would provide funds to “acquire, design, construct and equip a new comprehensive high school building to relieve overcrowding and enhance educational opportunities; the renovation, remodeling, and improvement of South Kitsap High School; renovation, remodeling, and improvement of Burley Glenwood and Olalla elementary schools and Madrona Heights Preschool.”

The bonds would also fund various safety upgrades, including campus lighting improvements, fire panel upgrades, improvements to vehicular and pedestrian access (including parking lots and bus loading), and upgrades and repair to playgrounds and playground equipment.

Supporters of Prop. 1, which includes author Debbie Macomber, argue that the levy is not a new levy, but continues a levy that is expiring. “Funds from this levy continue to bridge the gap in budget between the state allocation for basic education and what South Kitsap School District needs to maintain current programs and opportunities for students,” they wrote.

“Levy funds are critical and make up 22 percent of the SKSD operating budget. Passage of this replacement levy will ensure continued funding for more than 150 staff, including classroom teachers to maintain low class sizes. Levy money directly supports quality education in areas the state doesn’t fully fund, including extracurricular athletics, activities, educational support, textbooks, curriculum materials, maintenance costs, and technology for learning.”

In an argument against Prop. 1, Larry Mann questioned the justifiability of the levy.

“Since 2006, taxpayers have paid for one roof replacement four times, and one roof replacement three times,” he wrote. “On the current levy, they added five additional roof projects and from the list of seven roof projects only three have been completed …

“Since 2006, the district has been collecting on average $22 million or more of your tax dollars for a total of over $264 million by close of business Dec. 31, 2017. SKSD, by their own records, can document spending $5.9 million on three roof projects in 2015 and nothing more. [86 cents] from every dollar on this levy will continue to go to teacher salary and benefits. Vote no on this levy.”

Regarding Prop. 2, Mann wrote that the school district “is trying to convince the public that it needs another high school while enrollment has been trending down for years.” The district moved ninth-graders to the high school, resulting in overcrowding, he wrote.

“They now want $172 million to solve a problem they caused and expect the fixed income and struggling families of South Kitsap to pay for their mistakes. Vote no again.”

The committee in favor of Prop. 2 countered: “The bond was adjusted based on feedback from the community to benefit every student in every school. The South Kitsap School District manages taxpayer resources carefully. Our community hasn’t approved a bond for nearly 30 years and our overcrowded and outdated schools can’t wait any longer.”

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