Schools to try four-year levy in February

Counting on historically strong support – and the absence of other tax measures on the ballot – the Bainbridge Island School District will put a four-year, $24.4 million maintenance and operations levy before voters in February.

The levy would supplement local public school operations for 2004-2007, replacing the current three-year, $14.7 million levy that expires next year.

The Bainbridge School Board unanimously approved a Feb. 4 levy try at Thursday’s meeting.

“We think sentiment is strongly in support of schools” despite the down economy, said Clif McKenzie, chair of the district’s volunteer levy committee, in a presentation to the board.

While the Washington Constitution cites “ample” public education as the state’s “paramount duty,” school districts have long looked to local voters for supplemental funding. Of the Bainbridge district’s current $27 million annual operating budget, about $20.5 million comes from the state.

The proposed levy would bring in $5.7 million in 2004, increasing each year and reaching $6.6 million in 2007. The “millage rate” is estimated at between $1.70 and $1.75 per $1,000 assessed valuation on island properties each year, although that would likely go down depending on reassessments and the value of new construction during those years.

In crafting the levy, district officials factored in enrollment projections, inflation and other costs through 2007.

Funds would cover most facets of district operations: teacher and staff salaries, training and curriculum work, building and grounds maintenance, and transportation.

Thursday, the board faced three issues: whether to try a two-, three- or four-year levy; when to put the measure on the ballot; and whether to use an all-mail election.

McKenzie’s committee successfully argued for the district’s longest-ever levy attempt – until recently, school levies were limited to two years – to “just send voters to the polls one time, and get their support one time for four years.”

The February ballot was chosen after the committee determined that no other tax measures were likely to surface and bring out a “no” vote.

And while an all-mail ballot would have shaved about 10 percent off the $40,000 election cost, board members agreed that voters who actually go to the polls to participate tend to look more favorably on tax measures.

School board member Bruce Weiland supported opening the polls as a civics issue.

“Visiting the polling place with your kids on election day is one of the last great American traditions,” Weiland said. “It makes an event of the day.”

As an “excess levy,” the measure will require a 60 percent supermajority for approval.

Ken Crawford, superintendent of schools, said he has embarked on a series of informational speaking engagements around the community.

“Certainly, the history would suggest that the community supports education,” Crawford said, “but we don’t want to taken anything for granted...

“The economic times are a challenge for everyone. We want to make sure everyone knows how we’re spending the money, and that we’re using it in an optimal fashion.”

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 21
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates