PORT ORCHARD — Undeterred by past election defeats, the South Kitsap School District board of directors on July 18 gave the go-ahead for submittal of Proposition No. 1 before voters on Nov. 6 to build a new, second high school in the district.
The school board also has a big ask of voters on that same election ballot: their approval of a series of capital levy projects — under the Proposition 2 umbrella — that address facilities renovation, safety and security, and technology needs. The $21,694,378 capital levy, if passed, would be collected over a four-year period at a projected $0.67 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The board voted unanimously for both proposals.
The 25-year $184,680,000 bond measure is to construct a 240,000-square-foot comprehensive high school on district-owned land adjacent to Old Clifton Road. The money will be collected each year at a projected rate of $1.07 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
South Kitsap voters have been reluctant to pass school bond measures over the past three decades. Just in the space of two years, district voters failed to pass three bond measures that would have funded construction for a second high school. The most recent attempt, a $172.6 million bond measure in 2017 that included district-wide updates and security, also failed (voters did pass Proposition 1, which replaced an expiring tax levy).
To approve a bond measure, voters are required by state law to approve the proposition by a 60-percent plus one vote margin.
Superintendent Karst Brandsma said the board examined public feedback gathered during the SK 360 public forum earlier this year, then studied 10 possible facilities scenarios for future ballot measures at its June 6 and June 13 work study sessions.
District officials said the scenario that was chosen addresses a major concern of South Kitsap residents: property taxes. According to Brandsma and the board’s calculations, with a reduced rate of the existing $1.50 Operations levy and the proposed capital bond and capital levy, local school taxes would not increase. Property tax rates would amount to a combined rate of $3.24 per $1,000 of assessed property value — the same rate as the amount voters approved in 2017, the district’s report stated.
Just two residents spoke 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.”
Capital projects levy
Proposition 2 — the $21,694,378 capital project levy — would be paid for by property owners over a four-year period. The levied amounts would be collected, beginning in 2019. That first year, the district will receive $5,263,571, followed in succeeding years: $5,368,843 collected in 2020; $5,476,220 in 2020 for collection in 2021; and $5,585,744 in 2021 for collection in 2022.
The district said the capital projects fund would be for construction; renovation; improvements and expansion of new and existing facilities; for school safety and security; technology improvements; and equipment, support and training to meet the current and future educational programs for students.