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Hat in hand, CK schools prepare for levy vote

Now it’s up to the voters.

Saying they are facing lean times, the Central Kitsap School District is turning to taxpayers to pass a four-year renewal schools support levy that would bring in $24.2 million in 2011-12.

Ballots for the levy, a four-year renewal of a levy approved with 63 percent of votes in 2006, were mailed out this week and are due on or before Feb. 9.

The district needs more money than the levy would create, but with a struggling economy, now is not the time to ask for too much, Superintendent Greg Lynch said.

“We don’t feel comfortable with asking for any more dollars, so this is the absolute bare minimum we think that we need to get by,” Lynch said. “The fact of the matter is, you’re paying more for groceries, you’re paying more for gas, you’re paying more for utilities, and so is the school district. So it just doesn’t really cover the bill as well as we would like.”

The median-priced home in Silverdale is $260,000, according to the district’s Web site, and the current school support levy, expiring this year, taxes homeowners $2.16 per $1,000 assessed property value.

That number would jump to $2.49 per $1,000 assessed value, a tax increase of $7.15 a month or about $85 in 2011. Tax rates would continue to increase through 2014, to $2.63 per $1,000 assessed property value.

Those rates would create $16.8 million for the 2011 collection year, $17.64 million in 2012, a little more than $18.5 million in 2013 and nearly 19.5 million in 2014.

If the levy is approved, the district also would receive an additional $3.1 million from the state and $6.5 million from the federal government. That money won’t be available if the levy is rejected.

Combined with the $14.6 million the district will collect this year from the existing levy, the state and federal support makes the proposed levy worth $24.2 million, about 20 percent of the district’s current $115 million operating budget.

A nearly $24.2 million hole, in the event the levy doesn’t pass, would create a dismal scenario for the district.

“The impact would be a substantial loss of programs, and conversely, the impact of a loss of programs would be the loss of staff,” Lynch said. “So we don’t even like to think about the fact that we wouldn’t be successful.”

But Lynch believes the district is on solid footing with voters based on results of the 2006 levy and because of high marks given to Central Kitsap’s schools in a telephone survey conducted by the district last year.

In the survey, 70 percent of the 250 residents polled gave the district either an A or B when asked about overall performance. That number was up from 66 percent in 2005, when the district conducted a similar survey prior to the 2006 levy, and it was well above the statewide average of 54 percent, according to the survey.

Central Kitsap also is among the top 5 percent in the state in terms of extended graduation rate, hovering around the 97.8-percent mark, according to the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“We’ve proven we can deliver an education, and here is the measurable,” Lynch said of the graduation rate.

How the money would be allocated in the event the levy passes is yet to be determined. But school support levies typically go toward “education enhancements” that aren’t covered by the state. Education enhancements are different than basic education needs and include co-curricular activities, athletics, arts and Associated Student Body activities, among others.

Lynch said the Legislature will determine how much the state funds basic education needs, and in turn, will determine how the district spends its levy money. The session ends in March.

“On one hand, we’re telling the community, ‘You really need to support the schools by voting for the levy, and if you vote for the levy and we’re successful, it will fund those things,” Lynch said of education enhancements. “But on the other hand, if the magnitude of the budget shortfall calls for it, we may have to come back in and make cuts.

“There’s nothing that we do right now anywhere in the school district that we would say is untouchable. Until you figure out what the magnitude of the deficit is, you don’t know how deep you’re going to have to go, and we won’t know that until we have more information.”

The district employs more than 1,600 people and has an enrollment of more than 11,000 students.

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