Central Kitsap voters to decide on school levies

Special election ballots are due February 12.

Voters in Central Kitsap and Bremerton will decide on two proposed school levies in the coming weeks.

Central Kitsap’s Proposition No. 1, a tax meant in part to support extracurricular programs the state does not fully fund, would see $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property taxed – a reduction from the current school support levy of $2.99, which expires at the end of this year.

The tax would be added to the current CKSD bond levy of $1.57.

The current school support levy was approved by 64 percent of voters in February 2016. Also called Proposition No. 1, it infused about $23 million into the CKSD budget each year from 2017-2019.

The new levy would supply $18 million per year to the school district starting in 2020.

The decrease is due in part to a recent intervention by the state Supreme Court known as the McCleary decision, which mandated that state government cover a greater share of public education costs. If the new levy passes, the portion of the Central Kitsap School District’s budget coming from local levies would be halved, according to Katherine Woods of Central Kitsap Citizens for Quality Education.

Local levies would make up about 10 percent of the Central Kitsap School District’s budget, with about 83 percent coming from the state and seven percent from the federal government.

The new measure will help raise funds intended to support programs like athletics, arts, drama, special education and libraries, according to Roy Rainey, chairperson of the political group campaigning for the measure.

In a statement against the measure, Kevin Tisdel cited recent county library, transportation and fire levies – all approved by voters – as contributing to a growing tax burden that may “destabilize families,” he said.

Tisdel argued more clarity is needed to distinguish school “enrichment” costs from “operations and maintenance.”

“Tighter scrutiny seems appropriate,” he wrote.

In Bremerton, voters will decide on a one-year capital projects levy of $1.65 per $1,000 of assessed value to replace three expiring levies. The new tax would see the total paid by property owners to Bremerton schools – $3.15 per $1,000 – unchanged, according to figures provided by the school district.

The tax is designated in part for security upgrades. No arguments were filed against the measure as of Tuesday.

“This Capital Levy is needed to keep our buildings and facilities safe and healthy for students and staff,” said Julie Wasserburger, chair of the committee for the measure. Funding is designated for “safe entrances and reception areas in all schools,” she said in arguments filed with the county, as well as upgrades to HVAC systems and other maintenance.

Special election ballots for both measures, plus school and fire propositions on Bainbridge Island, will be mailed to registered voters by Friday, according to the county elections office.

The deadline for returning ballots by mail or delivering them to one of multiple drop boxes is Feb. 12.

Gabe Stutman is a reporter with the Kitsap News Group. Follow him on Twitter @kitsapgabe.