NKSD projects need more funding despite $40M levy

NKSD has $80M worth of capital projects and $40M in levy funds to spend

In 2018 voters approved a nearly $40 million levy to be collected for capital projects throughout the North Kitsap School District. Despite knowing that the district’s need exceeded the levy amount by an additional $40 million, officials opted to maintain a tax rate of $1.26 per $1,000 of assessed value, to keep from overburdening the taxpayer.

“The district and committee knew that the capital needs exceeded what we felt was right to ask the voters to decide on,” said North Kitsap School District spokesperson Jenn Markaryan, “We plan to [go] to our voters with capital levy and bond requests when the current levy expires to continue our capital improvements.”

The 2018 capital levy approved by voters was just one of two NKSD levies on the Feb. 2018 ballot. An educational programs and operations levy raised the district’s ask to nearly $90 million which would be collected annually between 2019 and 2022.

Capital projects in school districts are not funded by the state and generally require large sums of money to improve or maintain school buildings as well as technology. This requires that districts rely on voters in the district to approve levy funds, which replace existing school taxes.

For NKSD, funds from these four-year levies average about $10 million per year and are used for critical replacements, repairs, and upgrades.

During the planning period ahead of the levy vote, the Community Facilities Advisory Committee met to review the needs of the district and develop recommendations to be given to the board to rank in priority. At the same time, the committee recommended a full facilities condition assessment which discovered that there existed some $80 million worth of necessary capital projects that need to be done in the district.

In order to prioritize the district’s projects, district officials provided the committee with a tier-based ranking system for the capital projects based on necessity.

Ten projects were ranked in the tier-one category, as the most important to be completed over the course of the next four years, costing a total of $25 million.

The top priority, and also the most expensive of the projects, were the repair and replacement of all HVAC systems in the district’s elementary and middle schools. A project estimated to cost a total of $9.8 million. $2.6 million of those funds have already been spent on the HVAC system at Kingston Middle School alone.

Some of the items on the tier-one list were moved to tier-two as other projects took precedent. For example, upgrades to the technology and fire alarm systems district-wide were moved to tier-two to accommodate for other safety and security upgrades based on commitments made by the board in March 2018. The district also hopes to upgrade the access control systems and secure entry points at all the middle schools as well as install security cameras at Richard Gordon Elementary and Vinland Elementary schools. So far only the latter has been completed for $506,000 within the $1.2 million still allocated to address these issues.

Approximately $5.7 million has been spent on the tier-one projects to date.

Tier-two outlines 11 smaller projects the district would like to get done over the next four years, costing a total of $15 million. Among the tier-two projects are turf replacements at North Kitsap High School, Kingston High School, and Strawberry Field with an estimated cost of $3.9 million.

Approximately $2 million has been spent on tier-two projects.

Like tier-one, some items were moved from tier-two to a third tier. For $390,000 the district would like to purchase a wash system with vehicle hoist to wash the districts vehicles.

Over the summer, 18 projects were completed within the district, totaling approximately $4 million. The most expensive being the replacement of the Kingston Middle School HVAC system at $2.6 million, the replacement of a portable classroom at Poulsbo Elementary came in second place at $364,000 and the re-coating of the roof at Pearson Elementary placed third at $296,000.

At its second school board meeting of the month, NKSD will be discussing all these improvements plus plans for any future improvements within the district.