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Bremerton School District discusses capital projects levy

An increase in taxes is the last thing most people want. But, later this year residents may be able to vote on a capital projects levy for the Bremerton School District.

Discussions of a potential 2012 capital projects levy began in the fall for the school district and Bremerton School Board members agreed at last Thursday’s school board meeting that discussions need to continue and supported preparations be made for the community to vote in an August special election on a levy.

“We need to get this done,” said board member Carolynn Perkins at the meeting. “We do have aging buildings.”

As far as the exact number — or even range — of tax dollars that would be gathered — and for how many years it will be gathered — from such a levy have yet to be defined. Money from a capital projects levy can only go toward facilities projects, such as upgrades or construction, and technology. The exact projects that would benefit from such levy dollars have not been determined yet as well.

Board members and district officials understand that in difficult economic times, the notion of increasing taxes is not what people like to hear.

“Even in the best of times, people don’t want to raise taxes,” said Superintendent Lester “Flip” Herndon.

The district’s Facilities Committee compiled a suggested list of facility issues this school year that would benefit from being addressed in anywhere from one to four years and others that could be started more than 10 years from now, but will need to eventually be fixed.

Replacing the roof of Bremerton High School — about a $2.1 million project — is listed under the “one to four years” category.

“It’s not an absolute four years, as a roof may be able to be patched and last another year or two, but it was prioritized based on safety and security for students and staff plus maintaining the facilities we have to serve student and community needs,” said Wayne Lindberg, the district’s finance and operations director. “Waiting longer than four years may end up resulting in additional expenses needed to catch up from the deferred maintenance that should have been done.”

The most costly project that the committee has suggested as needing attention within four years is a new central kitchen. The estimated cost for this is $3.76 million.

Scott Rahm, board member, said making sure people are informed on the issues and why money is needed is important.

“We owe it to the community to have another meeting to say what’s the plan,” he said, adding that he would like to hear what community members’ thoughts are.

The school board encouraged the campaign committee, Citizens for Good Schools in Bremerton, to reform to gather information and community support for a capital projects levy. Wendy Stevens, who has a child at Naval Avenue Early Learning Center, will help head the committee. The committee will host a meeting, which has not been scheduled yet, to gather feedback from the community and will forward it to the school board.

Stevens supports a levy because there are many facilities issues that can no longer go neglected.

“The high school needs a new roof. The central kitchen located behind the old junior high, it’s not the cleanliest or safest. There’s the expansion of West Hills to continue the STEM program. There are other buildings that need repairs,” said Stevens. “There’s a list of ideas that need to be funded.”

Including the new central kitchen and high school roof replacement projects, upgrades to fire alarms to meet new codes, other school roof replacements, general energy upgrades and updates to student technology, should ideally be addressed in one to four years. The total estimated amount for these items is about $8.5 million.

About $21 million will be needed to finance replacing Naval Avenue, remodeling the restrooms and concession area at Memorial Stadium, demolishing the old East High building except for gyms, along with other necessities such as replacing telephone systems and adding additional surveillance cameras. These projects are listed by the Finance Committee as needing to be addressed in five to nine years.

Looking 10 or more years down the line, replacing the high school’s auto shop will cost $3 million, upgrading sports fields will be $4.5 million and purchasing additional classroom technology will be $220,000 annually, among other projects with additional costs.

Bremerton isn’t the only district considering a levy, others already have.

Those in the Central Kitsap School District will vote in February on a supplemental levy that will raise $7.6 million in two years after the school board approved of a resolution for it in the fall.

In order for a capital projects levy to make it on an August ballot, the Bremerton School Board must pass a resolution and get it to the county by the beginning of May.

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