Letters to the Editor

School levy a tax I'm happy to pay

The South Kitsap School Board (SKSD) has determined, and rightly so, to place a continued four-year levy for school support or maintenance and operations on the ballot for Feb. 3.

The district held an unprecedented number of public board meetings about the possibility of the upcoming levy election before reaching its decision.

The Replacement School Support Levy funds the difference between state funding for schools and what the real cost to operate the schools on a day-by-day basis requires. Levy funding provides for approximately 16 percent of the overall annual SKSD Budget.

The levy funding pays for a portion of school bus transportation, building maintenance, computer hardware/software with technical support, health and safety support for schools and students, a portion of instructional support services, and other general support functions of district operations.

In the past several years, state education revenues have not kept pace with the rising costs of staffing, educational resources and essentials such as fuels, electricity and insurance.

In this budget squeeze, districts have turned increasingly to local revenues to finance the shortfall in basic education. But even this effort has its limits, and districts have had to make budget cuts.

South Kitsap School District over the past five years has made $10 million in budget adjustments. The reductions have been necessary due to continued declining student enrollment, reduced state funding and rising inflation in both fixed costs (fuel, energy, insurance, data processing, etc.) and staff compensation.

The reductions have become more challenging each year. The district expects to make further reductions over the next few years even if the levy election in February is successful.

The levy is a form of taxation. No doubt about it.

However, there are taxes that are necessary and ones that consistently provide for a positive and healthy community. A levy for South Kitsap public schools, which represents 16 percent of the district’s annual budget for services to children, is one of those taxes I don’t mind paying.

The truth is, we are already paying this needed levy support and have been since 2001. It needs to be continued.

We are fortunate, despite what some individuals might have you believe, that the South Kitsap School District Board of Education and their financial planners have indeed been looking out for our children’s best educational interests.

They have acted prudently and with public input all along the way. Yes, we may have to pay a little more than what we are currently providing through our property tax assessment, but what we get in return is much greater than what any of us as individual tax payers could expect to afford.

One last item. Article VII, Section 2 of the state constitution requires that the levy election not occur more than 12 months before the tax is levied and limits levy elections to two tries per year.

The current levy expires on Dec. 31, 2009. Therefore, the election must occur in 2009, precluding the November 2008 general election.

The earliest date in 2009 was Feb. 3.

If the school district waited until the Nov. 2009 general election, there would be no later election dates in 2009 to try again.

The district is also required by law to adopt its budget no later than Aug. 31.

Adopting a budget in August 2009 without knowledge of an approved or failed levy election for 2010 would be unprecedented and foolhardy.

There is also the issue of county certification of election results. If there was a delay in the county’s certification of Nov. 2009 election results, the actual collection could possibly be delayed a year.

Holding the levy election in the spring of 2009 is the only prudent course of action.

I volunteered and was selected to serve on the district’s Citizens Budget Review Committee earlier this year. I was provided ample opportunity to review the current levy expenditures and question any and all requests for additional expenditures.

I support the levy and will vote in favor of it passing in February 2009.

It’s my investment in our children’s future.

Dr. BILL MANAHAN

Port Orchard

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