Opinion

Our public school system deserves support – again | In Our Opinion | Jan. 22

Since 1956, Bainbridge Island School District has asked voters 31 times to approve a Program and Operations Levy and they’ve never failed to do so. There’s no good reason why the district’s run of positive outcomes should not continue when ballots are counted following the Feb. 9 election.

There is concern at the district office that the replacement levy (for a maximum length of four years, with $8.3 million levied in 2011, then $200,000 more for each of the next three years) has arrived perilously close to the $42 million bond issue approved in November after being defeated by 17 votes last May. Something like: How many times can taxpayers be asked for more during this time of economic strife before they say NO?

There’s a huge difference between a capital bond request and an operations levy, but both still involve tapping taxpayers for more dollars. While only a simple majority is required for approval, this specific request is particularly urgent because the district has been forced to reduce its budget by $9.6 million during the last two years. And it may face another $1.8 million cut in the coming year as the state continues its economic free fall.

The state funds about two-thirds of the district’s budget, with the district allowed to seek a maximum of 24.98 percent of state and federal allocations. Which means, as the state allocation shrinks, so does the levy amount available to the district. Among the 21 districts in its enrollment range, Bainbridge ranks 17th in total revenues ($8,949.16) per pupil. Levy funds now make up 21 percent of the district’s operating budget. Without them, curriculum and class size would be cut drastically.

That would be a shame considering the diligence and sacrifice the district and community have made to create a school system that is one of the best in the state scholastically despite its low ranking (232nd of 295) in state funding. Plus, the district and its employees have responded to the current predicament in a responsible, frugal manner and deserve our continued support.

So let’s extend the winning streak to 32 with another “yes.”

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