Two school levies on ballot for Bainbridge

Voters will be asked next week to continue two levies that Bainbridge school supporters say are crucial to maintaining quality educational programs for island students.

The Bainbridge Island School District is seeking voter approval for a three-year levy to pay for educational programs and operations, and a separate three-year levy to pay for technology improvements.

If approved by voters during the Feb. 11 election, the two ballot measures would mean an approximate $7 per month increase in property taxes for the owner of a median-priced home valued at $455,000.

Scott Reynvaan, co-chairman of the levy campaign committee, said both ballot measures are vital.

Without approval of the operations levy, the district would be facing substantial cuts to staffing and programs. About 80 full-time positions would be eliminated if the levy is not approved.

“Basically, the levy pays for teachers,” said Reynvaan, noting that it pays for 84 full-time staff positions.

“Obviously, keeping class size lower is very important,” he said.

Renewal of the levy would pay the equivalent of 26 full-time jobs for teachers and other certified staff, and 58 full-time support staff jobs.

The current Educational Programs and Operations Levy, which expires at the end of the year, covers the costs of 11 percent of certified teaching staff, and 48 percent of the district’s classified staff. It also provides more than $3.4 million for materials, supplies, operating costs and special education programs.

Officials note that the state does not fully fund K-12 public education, and revenues from the state have actually fallen in recent years. Funding per student from the state has dropped from $6,862 in 2008-09 to $6,817 in 2013-14.

Bainbridge totaled $9,647 in per pupil revenue in 2011-2012, which is lower than other districts in the region. Bremerton, for example, budgeted $10,123, while Bellevue spent $10,349 and Seattle spent $11,602. Per pupil spending in North Kitsap was $9,611 during the same time frame, and in Central Kitsap, $9,631.

Overall, Bainbridge was ranked 192 out of 295 districts in Washington in per pupil revenue in 2011-12.

“We rank in the bottom 35 percent of state school districts in per pupil revenue,” he said.

The Bainbridge district has a general fund budget — the pot of money that pays for day-to-day operation costs, salaries and benefits, transportation, curriculum and other costs — of $37.5 million this year. Local taxes account for roughly 24 percent of the Bainbridge district’s operating budget.

If approved by voters, the Educational Programs and Operations Levy would set the property tax levy for schools at $1.71 per $1,000 of assessed value. It would raise $9.5 million in 2015; $9.6 million in 2016; and $9.7 million in 2017.

The proposed Technology Levy would be set at 42 cents per $1,000 of assessed value in 2015, and would fall to 41 cents in 2017 and 2016.

Both levies, combined with already-approved existing bonds for schools, would set the total levy rate at $3.65 in 2015.

The Technology Levy would raise $2.2 million per year.

School officials note that the school district receives no state or federal money for technology. Bainbridge’s renewal levy for technology would pay for student computers, software and other gear for science and math classrooms, teacher laptops and interactive whiteboards, and other improvements in the district.

Officials said about 47 percent of the levy, roughly $3 million, would be devoted to student learning. Approximately 17 percent, or $1.1 million, would go to technology for teachers.

The levy would also devote $1.34 million to infrastructure and network improvements.

Beyond helping students succeed and support their transition into the work force, strong and stable school districts help the local economy and maintain the excellent quality of life that attract others to Bainbridge, he said.

“I still think people have a tendency to recognize the importance of a strong school district and the potential impact on your property values,” he said.

“Without this investment within our community, failed levies equal failing communities,” he added.

The two levies face some opposition on Bainbridge.

James Olsen, the chairman of the committee opposing both levies, said the proposals should be rejected and sent back to the district for trimming. More metrics are also needed, he said.

“All voters who run a household or business budget, or both, are faced with the reality of finite money and competing expenses. The solution to solvency is to pair down expenses to fit  available budget using tools for efficiency, organization, innovation and planning,” he said.

Olsen did not offer specifics on what should be cut if the levies are rejected.

“The committee in opposition will not attempt to micromanage where the trimming must occur but it is incontrovertible that trimming must occur and we must institute metrics to ensure we are getting what we are paying for,” he said.

Both levies need a simple majority approval to pass.



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