Budget woes drive ballot measures | Year in review

Facing significant budget shortfalls in 2009, the Bainbridge Island School District and Fire Department responded by putting ballot measures to voters during the year.

The school district, struggling with a $2.5 million budget gap and the possibility of eliminating 17 teaching positions, was dealt a blow when its $42 million capital bond was narrowly rejected in May.

The bond, which would allocate $32 million to replacing Wilkes Elementary School and $10 million to capital improvements at other schools, failed to meet the required super-majority by 19 votes.

While the district spent the summer re-evaluating the bond, the Bainbridge Schools Foundation’s “Save our Teachers” campaign went to work, raising more than $75,000 in 23 days.

The grassroots effort, which consisted of fundraisers such as car washes, bake sales and rallies, raised a total of $260,000. Combined with leaves of absence, retirements and resignations, the campaign saved all but one teaching position.

By the time the 2009-2010 budget was finalized, the district had eliminated 9 percent – $3.6 million – of its $36.5 million budget over two years.

In the fall, the district focused its attention on the capital bond, putting it to voters a second time on the November ballot. This time, the bond passed with 61.46 percent (6,844 votes) in favor and 38.54 percent (4,291) opposed.

The approval was followed, however, by the possibility of having to make more cuts in the 2010-2011 budget.

With a $2.6 billion shortfall in the upcoming state budget, the school district could be looking at a $1.8 million gap in funding, Supt. Faith Chapel said in December.

The deficit makes the – which makes up 21 percent of the school’s operating budget – even more critical. The levy, which expires at the end of 2010, helps to bridge the shortfall in state funding, Chapel said.

The district will ask for the maximum levy amount allowable – 24.98 percent of state and federal allocations – on the Feb. 9 ballot.

EMS 10-year levy passes with ease

After recording its first deficit in 2008 and projecting a shortfall of more than $280,000 in 2009, the island’s fire department put a 10-year levy to voters.

The levy, which will be used to hire nine EMTs and one paramedic, as well as staffing two fire stations, passed overwhelmingly with 73.51 percent (7,630) in favor and 26.49 percent (2,749) opposed.

With the approval, the county will impose a property tax levy of 40 cents or less per $1,000 of assessed valuation for 10 consecutive years beginning in 2009 for collection in 2010.

The department plans to staff Station 22 on Bucklin Hill Road early in 2010, and will staff the Phelps Road station in 2013.

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