South Kitsap school board to give construction bond talk a rest

In the wake of South Kitsap School District’s bond measure election defeat, board members say voters unwilling to support a second high school

By Sara Miller

Kitsap News Group

South Kitsap School District’s board of directors have taken the advice of Proposition 2 voters: any discussion about a construction bond measure will have to wait for another day.

The directors met at a board meeting Feb. 15 at Sidney Glen Elementary in the wake of the district’s special election bond loss Feb. 14. After discussion centered on what immediate steps should be taken after the third failed attempt to pass a construction bond for a second district high school, board members concluded that voter support in the foreseeable future wasn’t sufficient enough to reach the 60-percent supermajority threshold required to approve a bond measure.

For the time being, board directors said they are tabling any near-term bond measure attempts and instead are looking at what needs to be accomplished to renovate the current schools in the district.

So how do they do that?

The board acknowledged that passage of the operations levy is a start. The tax levy is expected to generate $24.3 million in 2018, $24.6 million in 2019, $25 million in 2020 and $25.5 million in 2021. The revenue will go into the district’s general fund to help support educational programs, and maintenance and operations.

“When setting up the bond measure, we made a priority list for every school in the district,” said Karst Brandsma, the district’s interim superintendent. “It makes up 22 percent of our general operating budget.”

During the special-election campaign, the school district emphasized the message that “levies are for learning.” So, in order to use the remaining levy money wisely, board members said they are working to develop a list of top priorities that need to be addressed.

The list is numerous. Roofs at Sunnyslope, South Kitsap High School and the district office are failing. The elevator at the high school doesn’t work. The community pool isn’t up to code. The parking lots at more than half of the schools and the district office are unsafe for students, staff and family.

“Maybe we should do a bake sale?” joked Rebecca Diehl, board vice president. And while baked goods are always a favorite, a lot of chocolate chip cookies would have to be sold to make up the difference.

The board, however, is considering running a capital levy within the next year. Although the district has never run a capital levy before, passage by a supermajority wouldn’t be needed. Projects paid for with capital levy funds would be scheduled out and prioritized, board members suggested.

That decision is still in the future for voters. In the meantime, the board is working to pinpoint problem areas that need the most attention.

“The public right now is not willing to support a bond,” board member Chris Lemke said. “What we have to do is take the things we paid the most due-diligence to during community meetings and building inspections, and find a way to fix numbers one, two and three at each building.”