PORT ORCHARD — South Kitsap School District’s board of directors are once again asking voters to approve construction of a second comprehensive high school to relieve overcrowding at South Kitsap High.
At its July 18 meeting, the board unanimously authorized a general obligation bond measure to appear on the November general election ballot. It also gave the go-ahead to place a second proposition on the ballot, which would fund a series of capital projects to improve school safety and security, renovate some school facilities and add new technology capabilities.
The $184.7 million bond measure would fund construction of a 240,000-square-foot high school on district-owned property at Old Clifton Road in South Kitsap. The proposed high school would have a capacity for 1,500 students. It also would have the capability to expand and house up to 1,800 students, Superintendent Karst Brandsma reported to those attending the board meeting. The state would contribute about $9 million to build the high school if the proposition is approved by voters.
The four-year, $21.7 million capital levy would be collected in four succeeding years: $5,363,571 for 2018, collected in 2019; $5,368,843 for 2019, collected in 2020; $5,476,220 for 2020, collected in 2021; and $5,585,744 for 2021, collected in 2022. The state also will kick in an estimated $3 million for the projects, the school district said.
The levy would be assessed over four years at a projected rate of $0.67 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
With this latest campaign, the school district confronts a history of failed bond measures in its attempt to construct a second high school. A 2017 bond measure for $172.6 million to fund construction of a new high school and renovations at district schools was defeated at the polls. A year earlier, two bond measures came up short by a handful of votes in reaching the 60-percent threshold. To approve a bond measure in this state, voters need to approve it by a 60-percent-plus-one-vote margin.
Just two residents voiced their opinions on the bond proposal during the public discussion period at the sparsely attended meeting — one in favor, one against — before the board voted.
Former board director Christopher Lemke addressed the board and read from a statement in which he disagreed with sending the proposal to voters in November. He told board members that the bond request was ill-timed.
“You have 105 days to sell this,” Lemke said of the bond and levy propositions. “That’s going to be very tough … timing is everything.
“In the history of South Kitsap, there’s never been a worse time for this action. Everyone has had a huge tax increase.”
He told the board that his own overall tax bill has increased by about $1,000 this year. The economics of the area has changed, he asserted, and said the need for a new elementary school outpaces that for a second high school.
But Andrew Rogers, a school district employee and new South Kitsap resident, said that investing in schools is good for the district’s economy and entices families to locate in the area. And new families, he said, help taxpayers pay for education services by spreading the tax burden.
“With the state of the facilities in this district,” Rogers said, “the cost of maintaining buildings that are well past their life cycle is a drain on resources that should be going to students and their education, and to staff in supporting their great work.”
Brandsma and the school board of directors made a concerted effort earlier this year through its SK 360 forum series to assess community support for funding capital facilities improvements.
Held this spring, the forum included an informational session led by experts on state funding and budgeting, school design and construction, tours of the district’s facilities and a “conversational event” at South Kitsap High.
The district also sought responses from the community with an online survey gauging opinions on education priorities. Brandsma said the district received about 800 survey responses.
“I thought it was a thoughtful and transparent process,” the superintendent said of the SK 360 community outreach effort.
One of the top community concerns registered by the survey, not surprisingly, was property tax rates.
If voters approve both measures, the district said local school taxes would not increase.
That’s partially a result of the recent new funding formula approved by the Legislature, which increased state basic education taxing to lessen the tax burden on property owners at the local level. As a result, state property tax rates are $3.03 per $1,000 of assessed value, an increase from the previous rate of $2.12 per $1,000.
Should voters approve both measures, property owners would pay a combined local rate of $1.74 per $1,000 of assessed value and a current operations levy rate of $1.50. That would total $3.24 per $1,000 — the same rate as voters approved in 2017, the district said.