When you know the facts, you’ll support South Kitsap's school levy

Sound Off is a public forum. Articles are selected from letters to the editor or may be written specifically for this feature. Today, members of the South Kitsap School Board (Patty Henderson, Keith Garton, Naomi Polen, Jay Rosapape and Kathryn Simpson) argue in favor of passing the district’s proposed levy in February.

The South Kitsap School District (SKSD) Board of Directors has agreed to ask voters to approve a School Support Replacement Levy on Feb. 3.

This levy would replace the current four-year School Support Levy that expires in December 2009.

Levy funding is vital to ongoing operations of the school district. Given the present financial crisis, we know supporting our levy will be difficult for some families.

Some of you may be asking why we’re asking voters to approve a levy in the midst of this national crisis. The answer is that we are on a funding cycle — one that will run out next year.

Having the replacement levy approved early next year will allow our district to have uninterrupted levy dollars in order to serve students in our community.

We simply cannot afford to wait and risk losing this precious means of stable funding.

We want to be very clear with you about why we need the levy and what it will pay for. We also want to assure you that we have spent many hours and days deliberating the levy plan.

For every item listed in the levy plan, there were two or three others that were excluded. We believe the final levy plan represents our best effort to be fiscally conservative while funding items and programs necessary for the success of our students.

We approved the levy plan because of three main reasons. First, levy dollars are used to improve the success of students. Since the first four-year levy was passed in 2001, scores from the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) have improved in areas of reading, mathematics and writing in the fourth, seventh and 10th grades.

The number of students graduating annually has also improved.

The levy proposal includes funding for 28 teachers, three counselors, new curricula and textbooks, teacher training, Internet access, technology support, arts, drama and music curricula, computer replacements and an upgraded library system.

The levy also provides for extracurricular activities and athletics.

Second, levy dollars are used to keep children healthy and safe.

The 2010-2013 levy proposal will fund school custodians and maintenance workers to help keep our schools safe and clean; a portion of student transportation; the installation of video surveillance cameras; school office and security staff; an update to the emergency radio system; and major building maintenance projects including very necessary roof replacements at Orchard Heights and Burley Glenwood Elementary Schools, and painting, carpeting and repairs at all school facilities.

Last, levy dollars are used to improve communication and provide general support. Levy funds pay for SKSD’s official Web site and informational publications, technology network maintenance, human resources and business services support, the Senior Tax Exchange Program (STEP) and the ongoing community use of school buildings and grounds.

The overall cost of the levy is based on conservative assumptions about property assessed value growth over the next four years — the estimated tax rates average around $2.28 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The tax rate is determined by the Kitsap County Assessor based on the approved levy amount divided by the total district property assessed value multiplied by 1,000.

We are grateful that our community has funded two consecutive four-year levies, one in 2001 and the other in 2005. We believe many of our successes are directly related to this support from our community.

Details of the plan are available on the South Kitsap School District’s Web site at www.skitsap.wednet.edu or by calling the district at (360) 874-7000. Please learn the facts about the levy. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact any one of us.

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