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Discussions continue on levy for Bremerton schools

Nothing about a levy to cover an estimated $11 million in needed work has been finalized or even approved by the Bremerton School Board, but discussions are ongoing.

Since last spring, the district Facilities Committee, made up of community members and district staff, had been touring school buildings and in the fall created a suggested list of issues to address including various repairs and maintenance items.

Susan Mears has two elementary school children in the Bremerton School District and attended a community meeting last week to receive more information on a potential capital projects levy for the school district and how additional money may impact her children.

The cost for facilities projects that will need to be addressed in one to four years is estimated at $11,687,000. These include projects such as replacing Bremerton High School’s roof at about $2.1 million and adding space to West Hills S.T.E.M Academy at $3.2 million.

Mears’ children are in the second grade at View Ride Elementary School and she doesn’t think many of the projects will have a direct impact on them.

“I don’t think my kids will be affected at all besides having a new roof on the high school,” Mears said.

Citizens for Good Schools in Bremerton, a committee made up of parents, hosted a meeting last Wednesday to present information on why a capital projects levy is necessary for the district. Wayne Lindberg, the district’s director of finance and operations, also gave a presentation on the district’s finances and possibilities for a levy.

While the turnout of people — both district administrators and community members — was about a dozen, Wendy Stevens, chair of the committee, said it’s never known ahead of time what a meeting will end up being like. The committee is in support of gathering information from the public on thoughts for a levy to bring back to the school board. Committee members plan to present comments at the school board’s Feb. 16 meeting.

“We appreciate the support we’ve had,” Stevens said, adding she has received emails with mostly positive comments supporting a levy.

Other items that the Facilities Committee suggests need to be addressed sooner rather than later besides the high school roof and S.T.E.M academy, include a new central kitchen, upgrades to fire alarm panels to meet new codes, roof replacement at other buildings, general energy upgrades and updated student technology.

Although these items total about $11.69 million, Lindberg said the district will look at areas to reduce costs, including applying to grants for the expansion of the S.T.E.M academy.

“These are pessimistic estimates,” Lindberg said of the current list.

Mears said she isn’t sure which way she would sway if the school board were to approve of a capital projects levy. She needs more information such as exactly how the money would be distributed among the different projects.

With a $19,000 state grant, site surveys with an architect will soon conclude and each district building will be given a “grade,” said Lindberg. The grade is a building condition assessment including everything from heat control to entry access and roof conditions. The final edition of the assessments with the grade of each building will be approved by the school board likely at its Feb. 16 meeting and will then be available digitally for the public, Lindberg added.

Although not finalized, a draft of the assessment indicates that the high school, which was built in 1988, has a grade of 76.88 out of 100 points, said Lindberg. He added that Naval Avenue Early Learning Center has a grade of 68.67 points.

There is no priority in the facilities projects though Lindberg said a new central kitchen and expanding West Hills — even if it’s adding portables — are high on the list.

Money that would come from a capital projects levy is important because it would go toward buildings that need fix-ups, said Stevens. And, it’s not because the district has been negligent with its finances.

“We aren’t talking about a levy because we can’t pay teachers,” said Stevens, adding that maintaining the schools is just as essential.

Lindberg provided potential capital projects levy numbers emphasizing that they are merely examples since the school board has not approved of anything. One example is that in 2013, a levy could bring in $1.8 million through property taxes with a rate of 57 cents per $1,000 of assessed home value. Using the average house price of $175,000, a rate of 57 cents would equal $99.75 per year or $8.31 per month.

In a January school board meeting, board members gave support for discussing the options for a capital projects levy with possibly sending a vote to residents in an August special election.

The last time a levy failed in the district was in 1999, according to documents from the elections division of the county Auditor’s Office. That would have been a three-year levy retrieving 3.15 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

A capital projects levy can collect property taxes from one to six years and the money can only be used for repairs, maintenance and equipment or technology. This type of levy would need a 50 percent approval rate by voters.

 

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