South Kitsap will seek four-year replacement levy | Schools

South Kitsap School District’s Board of Directors decided last week to stick with the four-year maintenance-and-operation levy it traditionally has placed before voters.

School board president Kathryn Simpson said that measure likely will be placed on the February ballot, which she said gives the district the option to place it on the ballot again in April if it fails.

Earlier this year, the Citizen Budget Review Committee, citing economic woes, recommended that the district only seek a two-year levy that could allow the district to make adjustments sooner if conditions improve. Simpson said the school board weighed that advice, but decided to pursue a four-year replacement levy for a couple of reasons, including providing a consistent revenue stream that helps ensure programs, such as arts and athletics, are maintained.

But Simpson said it also relates to the Washington Supreme Court’s January ruling in McCleary v. Washington. In that decision, the court ruled that the state has failed to meet its constitutional duty to fully fund basic education. The court, which also retained jurisdiction until 2018, decided to require the Legislature to report annually about its progress toward meeting the funding obligations.

That would put the replacement levy on track to coincide with potential new revenues from the state. If that occurs, Simpson said some aspects of SKSD’s levy would be superfluous and taxpayers could be refunded.

“We’re going to use this as a bridge to a new funding model,” Simpson said.

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

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). Simpson said SKSD likely will seek a higher percentage toward the levy lid as the state has reduced the amount of levy equalization, which is given to property-poor districts, in recent years.

“The major discussion for the board on that is that all of the work we do is only available to us by levy money,” she said. “We want to maintain the core things we do as a district.”

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