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Central Kitsap school levy goes to voters

Kaitlin Brown (center), a second grader at Jackson Park Elementary School, walks across the playground during recess Tuesday. Should the Central Kitsap School District’s capital projects levy be approved by voters in February’s special election, money would be raised through local property taxes for repairs throughout the district. - Kristin Okinaka/staff photo
Kaitlin Brown (center), a second grader at Jackson Park Elementary School, walks across the playground during recess Tuesday. Should the Central Kitsap School District’s capital projects levy be approved by voters in February’s special election, money would be raised through local property taxes for repairs throughout the district.
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka/staff photo

Vicki Shaw of Tracyton sees the need for a Central Kitsap School District construction levy, but in the rough economy, where job loss is still looming on the horizon for many, extra caution is advised.

“Most likely I’ll vote in favor of the schools,” said Shaw, 52. “But they need to be very careful with spending money, just like the private citizen is being careful spending money.”

Voters in the district boundaries have by Feb. 8 to vote on a proposed $58 million capital projects levy. The money would be collected for five years and spent to rebuild and renovate schools as well as upgrade technology. If the levy is approved, the district would also qualify to receive an additional $31 million in state and federal dollars, totaling $89 million for the projects. For the average homeowner, property taxes would inch upward next year by about $5.63 more per month on top of the district’s capital projects bond approved by voters in 1992, which will be paid off by the end of this year. It’s a small amount considering the benefits, levy supporters said, comparing it to the price of “half a pizza.”

But if voters decide to vote “no,” property taxes for the average home would drop by about $436 a year at the start of 2012.

Those savings however, would not last, said district Superintendent Greg Lynch.

“The bottom line is we have to offer 21st century buildings,” Lynch said last week. “Each year we wait to repair, the more expensive it gets.” The district currently has a $119 million backlog for critical repairs, he added.

Ballots to vote on the measure were sent to those in the military and overseas Jan. 7 and ballots to Central Kitsap residents were mailed out Wednesday. Exactly 37,041 ballots are being distributed in the special election, said Dolores Gilmore, elections manager with the county auditor’s office. The county estimates a 45 percent voter turnout. Special elections typically draw less participation, with an average turnout of 40 to 45 percent, Gilmore said.

In order for the measure to pass, a simple majority is needed. “If there’s even one more ‘yes’ than ‘no,’ it will pass,” Gilmore said.

Should a majority of residents vote “yes,” the money would be used for the replacement of Jackson Park Elementary School, renovation of Silverdale Elementary School, relocation and consolidation of central services as well as repairs and technology replacement at all schools, where some computers are more than 10 years old. The necessary repairs vary from school to school, but include roof repairs and upgrading heating and ventilation systems.

Jackson Park Elementary School, with its warning signs beside drinking fountains since 2005 and classrooms with two electrical outlets, has been the poster child for the levy. Located on Austin Drive near State Highway 3, the elementary school is in need of so many repairs that district officials said constructing a new building would actually save money. The building was built in 1967 and in addition to the undrinkable water and failing electrical systems, the building suffers from no air conditioning and a faulty heating system. That’s in addition to the more visible problems, such as threadbare carpet and trip hazards on walkways.

The construction of a new building is estimated to cost about $25 million and will be built next to the current elementary school building. David McVicker, the district’s finance director, said if the levy passes, construction would begin in the spring of 2013 with the building open for use in the fall of 2014.

“It’ll be a tight year, but will allow kids to stay there,” McVicker said, of not having to move faculty and students out of the old building until the new one is complete.

The enrollment at Jackson Park is 565 students from kindergarten through sixth grade, which is up 100 students since last August, said Principal Tess Danubio. The school is made up of two detached single-story buildings as well as portables that require students to walk outside to get to the cafeteria or other parts of the building. With a new two-story building with 25 classrooms, everything will be connected, Danubio added. The new building would be modeled after Emerald Heights and PineCrest elementary schools.

Besides the replacement of Jackson Park Elementary School, Silverdale Elementary School would also see renovations. Renovations to the school would include new flooring, replacing the heating ventilation system as well as making improvements to meet American with Disabilities Act codes.

“If you’re a parent in a wheelchair coming to a function, you have to sit outside the fence and use binoculars,” McVicker said of the facility not offering equal access to the play field.

If voters reject the district’s proposed levy, projects like the replacement of Jackson Park Elementary School cannot go ignored and will have to occur somehow. The money will have to come from the general fund instead, Lynch said.

“If we don’t start, as a community we’ll be paying more in the end,” McVicker said, adding that money used from the general fund for building repairs is money taken away from operating schools and student programs.

Kim Peterson, 47, of East Bremerton has concerns on the district spending money properly.

“If you’re going to build a new facility, why not make it accommodating?” Peterson said, giving the example of Klahowya Secondary School that has several portable classrooms along with the main building. “It’s just frustrating.”

“We think the school district can manage the funds,” said Bob Ramsay, co-chair of CK Kids Matter, the group supporting the levy. “It’s a financial good deal because there’s no interest.” The 1992 bond — which is similar to a loan — created $30 million in interest. Levies, on the other hand, do not require interest payments because the money comes directly from property taxes.

“We’re going to hold ourselves accountable,” Lynch said, anticipating concerns about how the money will be spent. The plan includes yearly reports intended to keep residents informed on how projects are progressing and how money is being spent. Peterson has a second grader in the school district and said she would discuss the levy with her husband but hadn’t reached a conclusion on how she will vote. Others however, know exactly where they stand.

“My thing is, if it raises my property taxes, I won’t vote for it,” said Dave Kudera, 61, of Seabeck. He added that he is retired and thinks that his property tax is already too high. “The state is supposed to fund the schools.”

In the event that the levy does not receive a majority in February’s election, the district has a plan. After gathering feedback from residents and with the approval from the school board, the district will bring the levy back on the ballot in the spring, Ramsay said. The district will be eligible to bring the levy back on April’s ballot, Gilmore said.

What is a capital projects levy?

A measure approved by voters that provides money for renovating and repairing school buildings. By state law, this money cannot be used for school operating costs and programs.

How much money will be received through this levy?

$58 million in local tax dollars

$31 million in state and federal money that the district expects to receive if levy is approved

$89 million total

How will this affect my property taxes?

The rate for the 1992 capital projects bond is $1.44 per $1,000 of assessed property value, which will be paid off by the end of the year.

The new capital projects levy will be a 27-cent increase next year, which equates to $1.71 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The average assessed value of a home in the Central Kitsap School District is $255,130, according to the county Assessor’s Office. A home valued at $250,000 would receive a $5.63 per month property tax increase should the levy pass.

Estimated Project Costs

-$25 million: Jackson Park Elementary School replacement

-$23.8 million: Critical repairs at all schools*

-$15.5 million: Relocation and consolidation of transportation, food services, science kit center, media center and warehouse

-$13 million: Silverdale Elementary School renovation

-$7 million: Technology upgrades at all schools

-$868,600: Silverdale Stadium track, turf, scoreboard and access replacement

*excludes Jackson Park and Silverdale elementary schools

More information on the capital projects levy is available at www.cksd.wednet.edu/CPLevy/index.aspx.

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