Levy vote looms

"Though the election for the South Kitsap School District's levy request isn't until Feb. 6, many voters are doing the same thing they did for November's general election and getting their votes in early by absentee ballot.Kitsap County Auditor Karen Flynn said as of Jan. 26, 8,800 of the 23,821 absentee ballots the auditor's office sent to voters already have been returned.But while 80 percent of voters typically cast their votes through mail-in ballots, 20 percent will still go to the polls Feb. 6 to check yes or no for the South Kitsap School District's proposed four-year, roughly $46 million levy.With state equalization funds, estimated to be about $2.4 million each year, the school district expects to get about $55 million over four years.Voters will be deciding on a levy rate of $3.44 per $1,000 of assessed property value the first year, $3.42 the second, $3.40 the third year and $3.38 the final year.If the levy passes, school district officials have said the district will be able to reinstate several programs and positions that were cut when the levy failed last year - as well as add a few things.If it fails, however, district officials have said they will have to cut all extracurricular activities, from after-school clubs to NJROTC and sports, as well as bus service and more positions.There are currently 36,102 registered voters in the South Kitsap School District.At the last levy election, about 62 percent of registered voters turned out. If that holds true this year as well, about 22,000 registered voters will cast a vote for the levy - 18,000 by absentee ballot and about 4,000 at the polls.The positive thing about voting by mail is the very large turn-out for special elections, Flynn said. In years past, people were loathe to trudge to the voting booths for anything less than the presidential elections. With the growing popularity of mail-in ballots, more and more people are participating in smaller-ticket special elections.As voters prepare to make their mark Feb. 6, Citizens for Quality Education and Community Leaders Affirming Support of Schools member Jim Civilla said he would want to remind them the election is about more than schools. I want to make sure everybody realizes this is not just a school district issue. It's an issue for the community, he said. It's making sure our kids have the same opportunities kids in other districts do. It's also about making sure we can continue to attract new businesses to the area.As far as dispelling any lingering myths, Civilla said the levy is not a new tax. This is strictly a replacement tax for the levy that failed last year, he said.By the end of the evening Feb. 6, Flynn said the auditor's office should have an unofficial count for absentee ballots and votes cast at the polls, but said many more should trickle in over the next week. Absentee ballots are only required to be postmarked by Feb. 6, meaning those that go in the mail that day won't arrive at the auditor's office for a few days.The auditor's office will certify the election Feb. 16. "

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