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School district will ask voters for bigger levy

t Board picks

plan requesting $2.27 per $1,000 rather than $2.20.

It’s Plan A for the South Kitsap School District.

After mulling over a pair of levy options to present to taxpayers, members of the school board on Wednesday night unanimously chose the plan that takes taxpayers’ estimated contribution to $2.27 per $1,000 assessed valuation in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years, followed by a 1 cent increase the following two years.

Voter approval in February would generate $70 million in property revenue from 2010-13. Total amounts to be collected each year of the levy are $16.39 million, $16.88 million, $17.75 million and $19 million, respectively.

The levy would replace the current version that runs through the end of 2009, and features an 8 percent inflator on salaries and benefits in 2010, followed by 6 percent the next three years.

SKSD has itemized its levy expenditures for the public since its last failed levy in 1999. It sets non-employee related expenses at 5 percent, replaces 2,180 computers, establishes a “safety net” at $300,000 per year, and includes health-room coverage.

It also provides $80,000 to upgrade to the Follet Library System.

School district assistant superintendent for business and support Terri Patton said the health room provision is significant because nurses aren’t full-time district employees, which means they need to fund clerical staff to staff the room at times.

The district also considered another proposal by Patton that came in at $2.20, but also featured less.

It called for a 6 percent inflator on all salaries and benefits, while non-employee related expenses were set at 3 percent.

That plan would have replaced 1,840 computers, put the safety net at $150,000 in 2010 and 2012, and provided $60,000 for library upgrades.

Patton said the rate increase was necessary because unforeseen issues when the last proposal was drafted in 2004 have made the levy unaffordable.

Factors include increased fuel prices and employer-paid state pensions, inflation rising higher than 3 percent, properwty values in Kitsap County exceeding the state average, and the recent credit crisis.

“No one really has that crystal ball,” Patton said.

Patton projected a $2.9 million deficit for the district in August.

She said SKSD reduced its annual budget by $1.1 million during the 2006-07 school year, followed by $1.7 million last year and $2.9 million this year to help compensate.

“We pared this levy down to provide what’s absolutely vital,” Board President Patty Henderson said.

The new rate would be higher than any local district for a maintenance and operations levy — Bremerton’s is $2.22 this year.

Peninsula had the lowest local total, $2.11 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, while both Bremerton ($3.19) and Central Kitsap ($3.12) are on the high end.

But the overall total is the lowest in the area because SKSD doesn’t have a bond (every other local district does), or a capital levy.

SKSD’s eight-grade health curriculum, which Patton said was stuck in the 1970s, has been updated since the levies passed. She also noted that all secondary schools have been outfitted with weight rooms, each teacher now has a desk phone and computer workstation, new musical instruments were purchased, and 30 “substandard” buses were replaced.

She also said scores have increased throughout the district in math, reading and writing for fourth-, seventh- and 10th-graders in the district on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) since 2002.

Patton said the district’s graduation rates have climbed nearly 18 percent in that time.

If the Feb. 3 vote fails, the board will put the levy to a second vote April 29.

But Board member Jay Rosapepe hopes it won’t come to that.

“It’s probably not appropriate to say, but it sucked,” he said of district cutbacks after the 1999 levy failed. “I don’t ever want to go back to that for the kids, for the community.”

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