$172.6 million bond measure comes up short; levy ‘yes’ votes prevail

South Kitsap School District asked voters to approve a school bond to update the safety and security of current schools in the district as well as build a second comprehensive high school. The Feb. 14 special election was the third attempt by the school board, having most recently failed in April.

By Sara Miller

Kitsap News Group

PORT ORCHARD — A general obligation bond measure put before voters Feb. 14 for the third time in a year by South Kitsap School District has fallen short of its needed supermajority of 60 percent plus one vote.

Voters in the district have rejected Proposition 2 by a 50.8 percent to 49.2 percent margin. Votes to approve the measure totaled 8,702. Votes to reject it totaled 8,414.

The results from the first two bond measure attempts were nailbiters with the outcomes decided only after the final count days after the vote. This time, the outcome isn’t in doubt.

“The disappointment, of course, is that the bond would have provided a lot of additional support for aging facilities that are in dire need of some extra financial support to bring them up to speed,” said Karst Brandsma, South Kitsap School District interim superintendent.

If a bond isn’t on the horizon, what’s the district going to do to supply for those schools in need?

“Before, we’ve always maintained them out of levy dollars, and that takes away from classrooms,” Brandsma said. “We’ll have to regroup and determine what the next step is.”

“We have a very conscientious board that tries to do the best thing for the community. We’ll take a look at everything to try to figure out what the next step is. It’s too early to say.”

Despite the bond measure loss, the interim superintendent saw a positive come out of the disappointing night.

“For one thing, there were two measures on the ballot, and the levy passed,” he said. “That’s about learning, and we have lots of that to do so that’s a positive.”

Proposition 1, a property tax levy for school operations and staff, maintenance and education curriculum, is ahead 55.2 percent to 44.8 percent to reject the levy. Voting yes were 9,506 voters, with 7,701 voting no. The levy vote required only a simple majority to pass.

Proposition 2 would have authorized South Kitsap School District to issue $172.6 million in general obligation bonds — essentially a loan from bond investors, guaranteed by the district’s taxing authority. The bonds would have been repaid out of annual excess property tax revenues over a period of 21 years.

The bonds would have provided funds to “acquire, design, construct and equip a new comprehensive high school building to relieve overcrowding and enhance educational opportunities; the renovation, remodeling, and improvement of South Kitsap High School; renovation, remodeling, and improvement of Burley Glenwood and Olalla elementary schools and Madrona Heights Preschool.”

The bonds would also have funded various safety upgrades, including campus lighting improvements, fire panel upgrades, improvements to vehicular and pedestrian access (including parking lots and bus loading), and upgrades and repair to playgrounds and playground equipment.

Greg Wall, school board president, also saw a positive from the night. “It feels good to have the levy pass,” he said. “Because if we don’t pass that, it’s immediate disaster, not disaster three years from now.

He was downcast about the bond measure loss, however.

“The unfair part of this whole thing is that we’re talking about 60 percent (supermajority),” Wall said. “We let the minority rule. This is a democracy. The majority is supposed to rule, and yet we have this minority ruling. It’s rough.

“We have a couple different options open to us. This was not as close as the last one, so we’ll see.”

South Kitsap’s Proposition No. 1 replaces an expiring property tax levy. The proposition would authorize a levy of $3.73 per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021, though those levies could be rolled back in the event the school district receives more state funding.

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 would go into the district’s general fund to help support educational programs, and maintenance and operations.

Elsewhere in Kitsap County, voters in the Bainbridge Island School District approved two levy measures by margins above 73 percent.

Countywide, the Elections Division reported that 38.1 percent of registered voters returned their ballots.

$172.6 million bond measure comes up short; levy ‘yes’ votes prevail
Votes were counted as ballots came in on Feb. 14.

Votes were counted as ballots came in on Feb. 14.