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The top agenda item on the Citizens Budget Review Committee’s list of recommendations might not fit with a maintenance-and-operations levy.
A dozen-member committee ranked facilities upgrades as its top priority when it comes to crafting South Kitsap School District’s next levy, which could come as soon as February.
District financial operations officer Sandy Rotella said the CBRC ranked 55 priorities it submitted to the school board May 23 for review. Each item was voted against one another and facilities upgrades, along with teachers, came out on top more than 98 percent of the time. Mullenix Ridge Elementary, which was built in 1991, is the newest school in the district.
“We need to create something for facilities upgrades,” Rotella said. “We’re currently relying on energy grants.”
Director of facilities and operations Tom O’Brien said last month that SKSD was awarded a $204,588 grant from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. O’Brien said the district also is anticipating a $99,220 grant from Puget Sound Energy soon. Couple those grants with $163,000 SKSD is using in energy savings from previous projects and O’Brien anticipates making more than a $400,000 investment in the district’s infrastructure.
Those projects include replacing the control ventilation in the gymnasiums and commons areas at Hidden Creek and Sidney Glen elementary schools and Cedar Heights Junior High. Instead of having those systems running nonstop, O’Brien said sensors will detect whether people are in rooms.
“It won’t pump fresh air into rooms without people,” he said.
In addition to that, O’Brien said there will be a “major modification” to the heating and cooling plant that was installed in the late 1970s at Marcus Whitman Junior High, and the cooling unit at SKSD’s central kitchen, which was installed during the 1940s, will be replaced with a walk-in cooler. He said the district also will finish replacing the remaining T12 fluorescent light bulbs — a project that began in 2000 — with T8’s in the parking lots and portables where they remain.
But Rotella said more extensive facilities projects might be outside the realm of a maintenance-and-operations levy. SKSD purchased a 56-acre plot near the intersection of Old Clifton and Feigley roads in 2003. A $163.2 million capital-facilities bond that would have paid for a new high school, rebuilt South Colby Elementary School and improved technology infrastructure, roofing, heating and cooling systems, and physical-education and athletic programs failed by about eight-percentage points of the required 60 percent super majority required to pass in 2007.
Kate Espy, a registered nurse at Harrison Medical Center who chairs the CBRC, said the school board will have to be careful if it presents a capital-facilities improvement plan to voters.
“We have to think of those economic times,” she said. “We have a lot of retirees. How much more do we put on people with a fixed income?”
But Espy said that work needs to be done. She praised the performance of South Colby principal Brian Pickard and his staff, but said the school, which was built in 1956, no longer meets the needs of its students or faculty.
“My kids went to South Colby,” Espy said. “The facilities stink.”
While the district’s last capital-facilities improvement proposal failed, it passed its last four-year levy in 2009 with 57.6 percent of the vote. SKSD officials estimated in 2008 that taxpayers’ contributions would increase from $1.90 to $2.27 per $1,000 assessed valuation through the end of the last school year before it increased by one cent. According to Kitsap County Auditor records, the rate actually increased from about $2.01 to approximately $2.50 in 2010 and $2.65 last year per $1,000 assessed valuation.
Rotella said SKSD has operated at 21.8 percent of the levy lid, which is certified at $17,746,000 of 2012 property taxes. The levy base is $81,270,321, which the state allows districts to collect a maximum of 28 percent ($22,755,690). District officials long have feared that voters would reject any proposal that approached the levy lid. Voters previously rejected SKSD levies in 1997 and 2000.