Voters will determine the fate of four school levy measures during the upcoming Feb. 8 special election.
North Kitsap School District is seeking approval of a four-year education programs and operations levy and a four-year capital projects levy, while voters in Bremerton School District will consider a two-year capital projects levy. Central Kitsap School District has a two-year education programs and operations levy on the ballot. A simple majority of 50% plus one is required for school levy approval.
Two voting centers will operate Feb. 8: the Marvin Williams Recreation Center in Bremerton and the Poulsbo Fire Station. The centers will be open from 7 a.m. through 8 p.m. Additionally, there are 25 ballot drop boxes located around the county. Drop boxes opened Jan. 21 and will remain open 24 hours a day until 8 p.m. on election night.
North Kitsap targeting facility modernization, upgrades
When North Kitsap School District Superintendent Laurynn Evans came on the job in 2017, she was presented a facilities condition report from 2015 that identified roughly $80 million in deferred maintenance projects.
When voters passed a four-year, $40 million capital projects levy in 2018, Evans said the district used a majority of that funding on those projects, including HVAC and roofing replacement at numerous facilities.
Yet deferred maintenance projects remain, which is why North Kitsap's new four-year capital levy seeks to collect $35,319,000 over the next four years ($12,904,500 in 2023, $14,195,000 in 2024, $4,684,500 in 2025 and $3,903,500 in 2026). The estimated cost for property owners would be $1.10 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2023-24, $0.33 in 2025 and $0.25 in 2026.
"Moving forward with the new levy, we still have deferred maintenance that needs to be addressed," Evans said. "That's going to be something that we are focused on."
Construction projects facing the district include creating separate gymnasium and cafeteria spaces at David Wolfle Elementary and Suquamish Elementary, as well as adding another wing of classroom space at Poulsbo Middle School, which is currently using multiple portable buildings that are beyond their end-of-life dates.
In 2021, the district's facilities advisory committee also identified critical areas that levy funding would support: technology upgrades, future engineering/design work, painting and parking lot repairs, portable replacement/refurbishment, demolition of unused portables, lighting and fire alarm upgrades and high school track and tennis court refurbishment.
"It's all a priority," Evans said.
North Kitsap's proposed EP&O levy would replace an existing $49.2 million operations levy that voters approved in 2018 and runs out in 2022. The new operations levy would seek to collect a total of $73,014,500 ($16,972,500 in 2023, $17,777,000 in 2024, $18,706,500 in 2025 and $19,558,500 in 2026).
The estimated cost for property owners would be $1.45 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2023, $1.38 per $1,000 in 2024, $1.32 per $1,000 in 2025 and $1.25 per $1,000 in 2026.
Operation levies supplement the state's basic education allotment to operate and maintain schools and help school districts pay for classroom support, special education, counseling, transportation, food service, arts, athletics and activities, security and utilities.
Evans described EP&O levies as crucial in supporting students beyond rudimentary education levels.
"What the state defines as basic education and what we know is necessary to provide a quality experience to our kids are two very different things," Evans said. "If we are going to provide a quality experience to our kids, we have got to have the support of our local voters."
As an example of how EP&O levy funding is utilized, Evans said North Kitsap School District uses current levy dollars to employ 15 computer support specialists. State funding only covers three specialists.
"That's three people to procure devices, configure devices, repair devices, maintain devices, do all the coding, programming, system support, infrastructure work for 18,000 devices," Evans said. "How does that work?"
Bremerton seeking sports complex at Mountain View
Bremerton School District's existing two-year capital levy expires at the end of this year. The new two-year levy would seek to collect $17 million ($8.5 million in collection year 2023 and $8.5 million in collection year 2024.) The estimated levy rate would cost property owners $1.32 per $1,000 of accessed value in 2023 and $1.26 per $1,000 of accessed value in 2024.
Much of Bremerton's capital levy funding would go toward a school and community multi-use fitness complex at Mountain View Middle School. Athletic facilities surrounding the school have deteriorated to the point that school and community sports teams often deal with muddy, water-logged surfaces, especially during the fall and winter months.
"Mountain View is a beautiful middle school campus. The buildings are beautiful, it has a great view," Bremerton School District Superintendent Aaron Leavell said. "Then you go out back and the physical education/athletic facilities are subpar."
If the capital levy is approved, construction for the project would begin in spring 2023 and include a synthetic turf football/soccer field and full-sized track and a multi-use synthetic turf soccer/baseball/fastpitch field (with an estimated price tag of $16.85 million); field lighting ($350,000); a 30-50 stall parking lot ($500,000); a 1,800-square-foot storage building ($370,000) and a 700-square-foot restroom building/concessions stand ($355,600).
"It makes more sense — literally, dollars and cents and common sense — to ask our community for this support," Leavell said. "We've heard from many of them who are asking us to do this. Even though they are athletic fields, there are many groups that use our facilities."
From a school-use standpoint, Leavell said it's time for Mountain View to have a facility that can be utilized and enjoyed year-round.
"While it is a school district/community venture, our students deserve, they deserve it," Leavell said. "They deserve to have facilities that meet or exceed our needs and they should have to go to the high school to practice and have track meets. They shouldn't have to go to Legion Field because their field is underwater."
Central Kitsap aiming for same collection rate
Central Kitsap's proposed operations levy seeks to collect a maximum of $40 million ($20 million in collection year 2023 and $20 million in collection year 2024). The estimated cost for property owners for both years would be $1.50 per $1,000 of accessed value.
The district's existing three-year school support levy, passed in 2019 with a collection rate of $1.50 per $1,000 of accessed value, runs out this year.
“Our community has supported a levy for more than 20 years, and we are grateful for this investment in our schools," Central Kitsap School District Superintendent Erin Prince said. "The school support levy allows our students to learn, to explore, and to connect. It strengthens their overall educational experience in many ways, and that’s why we say that the levy brings our schools to life.”
This article originally appeared on Kitsap Sun: Four school levy measures on the Feb. 8 special election ballot