South Kitsap School District's next operations levy likely set for February

South Kitsap School District officials are entering the final stages of planning for their next maintenance-and-operations levy.

School-board president Kathryn Simpson said the district likely will follow tradition by placing the levy on the ballot in February.

But that is not out of convenience.

“There’s a nuance in the law that says collection has to be made in the same year,” Simpson said. “If we don’t pass in the November date ... we would miss at least six months of collection opportunity.”

Placing the levy on the ballot in February gives the district the option to place it on the ballot again in April if it fails, Simpson said.

SKSD’s current levy runs through Dec. 31, 2013. That means the new collection rate would begin midway through the 2013-14 school year.

District officials also must decide how long they want their levy to run. SKSD has passed its last three levies after just nine out of 25 levies won between 1973 and 2000.

The district’s last four-year levy passed 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 assessed valuation through 2011 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.

Sandy Rotella, the district’s chief financial operations officer, said the district 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). SKSD officials long have feared voters would reject any proposal that approached the levy lid.

Kitsap County assessor Jim Avery said in July that most residential property owners in Kitsap County saw their assessed value decline from 2 to 4 percent from January from a year ago. When total assessed valuation declines, it tends to result in the tax rate increasing.

“I'm certainly concerned because of the way housing numbers have changed, the paradigm might be much different,” Simpson said. “That does concern me in terms of the conversation. I'm not predicting it will be an easy go. Many families are struggling for work and are upside down in their mortgages.”

Instead, Simpson is hopeful that voters will view the district’s record in positive terms.

“I think we can demonstrate that we are good stewards of the funds we receive,” she said.

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