Ballots are out for Central Kitsap school measure

The Central Kitsap School District looks to continue “bridging the gap” between state funding and actual costs in its latest levy renewal request, but a growing interest among taxpayers to lower rates could have the district reliving a stressful 2022 election year.

The district had seen regular successes in its levy measures since 1997, but that changed in 2022 when the district saw its first levy proposition in 25 years fall in February to a 51.43% vote against. The levy, which requires just a simple majority, sought to collect a maximum $20 million annually at a rate of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value, was presented to voters again two months later as the sole measure on the April 26 special election. It passed, but the “yeas” outnumbered the opposition by a mere 158 votes.

That levy is set to expire at year’s end, and the district is preparing to hear from voters again, one way or the other. “When you’re going out (with an ask), there’s always risks,” said director of Business Services Paula Bailey, who recently presented details on the district’s newest levy request. “I’m not sure that the risk this time is any different than what we would typically see.”

However, those against the measure allege the district has not done its due diligence in furthering the education of students while asking for more money than taxpayers should be paying.

“There must be a reasonable balance between the superintendent’s staff desires and the financial realities and traditional values of district taxpayers,” a statement from the committee against the measure reads.

The newest measure seeks to keep the capped rate of $1.50 the same while increasing the annual capacity to be collected to $23 million. The adjusted collection maximum is based on increasing and inflated costs, the district pinpointing athletic budgets, contractor payments, insurance expenses and employee costs as four key areas within its budget being affected. The district estimates the actual amount at $21 million in 2025, $22 million in 2026 and $23 million in 2027.

The levy makes up around one-tenth of the district’s budget, but those dollars play key roles in “bridging the gap” between what state and federal funding designate their monies toward and what is left to fund. Bailey said, “Much of the state and federal funding has restrictions, so they are provided for a specific purpose or are part of a grant that may only be used on those activities for which they are provided.”

The district breaks down the distribution of the levy funding into four main categories: student supports (50%), safety (10%), special education (20%) and sports and activities (20%). The broadest of those categories, student supports encompasses additional staff positions, transportation costs and a large part of technology offerings.

“The initiative where every student has access to a Chromebook, that is one-hundred percent levy-funded,” Bailey said, “and the staffing that is required to support that Chromebook as well as the wifi – the backbone, the instructional technology in this district – seventy-two percent of that is levy funded.”

Safety staff numbers are also funded by the levy, as well as 17% of special education costs. The levy is also used to fund 100% of athletics and activities offered outside of the school day such as fine arts programs.

CKSD officials state the levy will continue to provide essential funding to its schools and will play a key part in qualifying for additional outside funding such as millions of dollars in federal heavy impact aid.