"Sorry, but it's school levy time again"

"Bill Lahmann feels the pain inflicted on property owners by school levies.It's a horrible way to support schools, said the South Kitsap School District superintendent. Every two or four years, we come with our hand out while the old levy is still in effect and we ask, `Gee, how would you like another one?' It's like, how often do people want to shoot themselves in the foot?The public-education funding system that allows maintenance and operations levies like the one that voters in the South Kitsap district will decide in the Feb. 29 election is as frustrating a situation as I've ever dealt with, Lahmann said. But it's a necessity that Lahmann, forbidden by law from openly campaigning for its passage, gave Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce members a briefing Feb. 10 on why it's back.The last levy that passed in 1998 is in its final year. The new one, if it gets at least a 60 percent approval by voters, would collect approximately $43 million over four years at a rate of $3.46 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The tax bill for homes valued at $135,000 and $150,000 would be about $467 and $519, respectively. Student achievement is what we're all about, Lahmann said, so money from the new levy would be spent on, among other things:* New curriculum materials ($100,000 per year).* Training in new curriculum and assessment standards ($150,000).* More student furniture, general classroom materials and equipment.* More classrooms for alternative education at the junior high level and for special-education ($130,000 for a portable building).For other student-related needs, $400,000 would be spent on more wiring to extend a computer network to all classrooms in all schools, and $1 million would go toward a new telephone system that would allow a homework hotline and more communication between teachers and parents.Student safety and health would be addressed by earmarking $600,000 per year for replacing old school buses (built before 1977) with new ones, continuing the practice begun this year of law enforcement officers assigned to secondary schools, and adding more school nurses and intervention specialists.Key plans for upkeep of school buildings would include $600,000 for maintenance and improving energy efficiency in efforts to lower future costs for both, according to the district. On the administrative side of things, the district wants to build its reserve fund, obtain federal Medicaid funds for assisting students with medical needs, spend $70,000 on mailing school information to the public, and allocate $50,000 for Internet updates about the schools.Projects tied to the new levy are similar to or extensions of ones that have been finished since the last levy passed two years ago. The district has spent $618,000 on new instructional materials, hired two full-time security guards for South Kitsap High School, purchased 11 new buses and made plans to buy at least three more ($1.2 million total cost), installed a district computer network and dedicated more than $900,000 for facilities maintenance and improvements. The latter last year included new roofs at Olalla Elementary School, new heat pumps at Burley-Glenwood Elementary School, new carpet at Orchard Heights Elementary School, new paint on the exterior of Sedgwick Junior High School, repaired bleachers at Cedar Heights Junior High and new lockers at the district swimming pool."

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