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School board may seek levy by 2009

The South Kitsap School District Board is gearing up for its next school levy.

Assistant Superintendent Terri Patton presented the current financial situation and suggestions for how to proceed in requesting funds from South Kitsap property owners.

With increasing property values in the area, Patton said the board will need to consider approaching the next levy cycle with a different tactic.

South Kitsap, like other school districts, relies on “levy equalization funds” from the state, which offers money to districts with lower than average property values.

As those values grow in South Kitsap, the amount it receives for schools decreases.

“I think property values are going to go up to where we’re considered not eligible for these funds,” Patton said Wednesday.

Patton is encouraging the board to devise a plan that does not rely on those funds, especially after the current cycle saw a decrease, which led to some of the budget cuts for the 2007-08 school year.

Patton’s presentation focused on several more conservative assumptions by basing decisions on lower-than-predicted property values and higher-than-predicted costs and inflation rates.

Patton also noted that South Kitsap asks for smaller than average levies, and said the board should think about whether to continue that trend in the future.

“The amount we collect is less than everybody else, and we spend less,” Pattons said. “How can we expect our students to compete when we spend less?”

Patton also presented a timeline for preparing and implementing a levy request, with ballots hitting voters’ mailboxes no later than April 2009.

“We have a budget to build, we have teacher contracts to issue,” Patton said, and that summer work will depend on the outcome of the levy.

Additionally, “If we fail in April,” she said, “we get another shot at it before it’s too late.”

If the levy fails, the board could consider doing another in the same year, as late as November.

From 1973 to 2000, SK voters have approved nine out of 25 levies.

“We’ve obviously had a better track record since then,” Patton said, noting passage of two four-year levies since 2001.

Board members then discussed some of their priorities and concerns.

Kathy Simpson encouraged keeping the amount close to the current rate.

“I think we would be in a more positive place with our taxpayers when we put a bond forward,” she said.

Board President Patty Henderson encouraged revisiting technology needs. This year’s failed bond included a portion for technology infrastructure, which the board said was badly needed at the time.

“I want to see us think about technology, too,” Henderson said. “We can’t stick our heads in the sand. We need to have money for technology.”

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