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Central Kitsap school district considers alternatives to levy
The Central Kitsap school district’s loss of federal impact aid and state funding leaves them facing an estimated $6.8 million gap for the upcoming scholl year. Talks of a supplemental levy to help make up the difference are underway, and the school board is set to vote on this issue Nov. 9.
Meanwhile, the district is considering any and all alternative solutions.
“The school board and myself know that the timing is not great [for this levy]. But the school district is as near to the perfect storm as we can get in terms of finances. First, the national economy is in depression conditions. Second, we have seen a decline in enrollment, a loss of 2,500 kids since 1998. Third, the loss of state support and federal funding,” said Superintendent Greg Lynch.
Lynch explains some of the alternatives that the school board has pursued to bridge the financial gap. One of these approaches includes legal action, specifically appealing the Department of Education’s decision through a change in language on heavy impact aid.
“The appeal has been up for reauthorization for a year now but not successful. There is a Congressional vote on Nov. 18, and the possibility of hooking it onto a different piece of legislation,” said Lynch.
The superintendent claims that the current deficit is not a result of malfeasance or poor leadership, rather the state not living up to its constitutional duty to fully fund education.
David Beil, spokesman for district adds that the school district is also working actively to obtain private grants to help the financial situation.
“We have 7 million in grants over some years, and $2.5 million just this summer,” said Beil.
In addition to looking for other sources of revenue, the school district has also made cuts to their operations. Lynch reports a 42 percent overall reduction, approximately $15 million over the last 5 years.
“We may not have an exact list, but with these types of reductions, it doesn’t even begin to stem the hemorrhaging,” said Lynch.
The district has downsized its central office and closed elementary schools. They are uncertain of where additional cuts will come.
The superintendent explained that the next step will begin in the winter when the district will codify what can be further reduced or eliminated. According to Lynch, the district will do this with feedback from the public and the staff.
Even with alternatives underway and the economic tide against them, Lynch believes that the time to levy is now. He claims that that if all other options fall through, the school district has too much at stake.
“We can’t wait to make decisions around the alternatives though because we don’t know what will happen in the future. The levy would ensure the future of schools,” said Lynch.
Beil explains that if any or all of the alternative methods do pan out, and the district is no longer in a budget deficit, tax collection on the supplemental levy will be stopped.
“I don’t think people know we can do that. After Nov. 30, we can determine what amount to be collected, reduce it, or eliminate it,” said Beil.
Lynch says that the school board decision to levy will not be an easy one. He claims that they will decide to move forward only if they believe that they are at the end of their rope.
“The supplemental levy is not the default. We’d much rather be successful in other methods rather than ask for additional taxes from the public.”