Covering all the bases

In the past few months, it’s become a choreographed scene that has played out in front of any civic group that will grant Greg Lynch 20 minutes or less. Lynch, the superintendent of Central Kitsap School District, takes a few minutes to explain the nuts and bolts of the upcoming capital projects levy, then he’ll step aside and let either Bob Ramsey or Bob Bentley take center stage to do the convincing.

As a state employee, Lynch is prohibited by state law from trying to convince anyone to vote for the Central Kitsap School District capital projects levy in a May 17 special election. No such law exists for Ramsey and Bentley, volunteer representatives of Central Kitsap Citizens for Quality Education.

The three have tag-teamed the Central Kitsap circuit to get out as much information as possible about the proposed six-year levy, which would raise about $17 million in local tax money earmarked for construction projects between 2006-11. The district anticipates about $11 million in state matching funds and $29 million in federal heavy impact funds, which would combine for about $57 million for renovations and new construction over the life of the levy.

The difference between a bond and a levy is that with a bond, the district would get the cash up front and the county would collect the taxes to pay the bond back, with interest. With a levy, the money collected is earmarked specifically for construction and is put into a separate account. Projects are worked on as the money collects. Levies do not accrue interest.

If the capital projects levy passes, it will fund new Seabeck and Jackson Park elementary schools and pay for maintenance and upkeep projects at the other schools in the district except PineCrest and Cottonwood elementary schools.

At the end of the six years of tax collection, the district will then ask for another six-year levy to fund two new junior high schools and other projects.

The capital projects levy will be a tough sell for Central Kitsap voters who voted down a September 2003 $60 million bond proposal and are still paying off a $62.5 million bond from February 1992, plus the $30 million in interest the bond accrued. The 1992 bond paid for Klahowya Secondary School and Emerald Heights and PineCrest elementaries.

Skeptical voters are just one of several challenges the proponents of the levy face.

For starters, before the vote is even valid, at least 40 percent of the Central Kitsap voters who voted in the November general election have to cast their ballots in the special election, according to Delores Gilmore, Kitsap County elections manager.

Of the 40 percent who show up, at least 60 percent have to vote yes, she said,

“This is with any levy,” she said. In the state of Washington, school districts must get 60 percent of the vote to pass a levy or bond. This applies to both capital projects bonds and levies and maintenance and operations bonds or levies.

Gilmore said getting 40 percent of the voters from the last general election is never a problem in Kitsap County because of the high number of mail-in voters. About 75 percent of Kitsap County voters are absentee voters.

“In the last eight years almost every district that runs an election has the 40 percent to validate the election just out of the absentee votes,” Gilmore said. “The issue is to get the 60 percent ‘yes’ vote.”

In the 2003 bond election, only 92 votes separated the yeas from the nays in the election, which garnered 15,460 votes.

One of the most vocal opponents of the failed 2003 bond, Silverdale resident Jack Hamilton, backs the levy but says he wasn’t converted to the school district’s

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