School districts team up for levies

Bremerton School District will not be going it alone in the campaign to renew its operating and maintenance levy in a Feb. 7, 2006 vote.

BSD happens to be on the same levy cycle as the North and Central Kitsap school districts and the three will collaborate in their informational efforts.

“Citizens’ groups from each district came to the conclusion it’s more cost effective and logical to combine resources in getting the message out,” said Krista Carlson, community services coordinator for BSD.

One of the goals for Bremerton in particular will be to help voters understand the difference between a levy and a bond, which was passed by Bremerton voters in May.

By law, bond money must go toward capital improvements which include the building and equipping of new facilities and bringing existing ones up to safety standards and codes.

“That money can’t be used to pay for teachers or any sort of instructional materials,” Carlson said. “Levies are critical to providing the things needed in the classroom for children to learn.”

The levy money makes up 16 percent of the district’s budget and accounts for 24 percent when levy matching funds from the state are considered.

Almost half of levy funding goes toward classroom needs such as additional teachers to keep class sizes smaller, expanded summer school activities, updated instructional materials and supplies for teachers. The rest is divided among school support, building maintenance, transportation, technology, student activities, athletics and equipment replacement.

Levy money would apply to items currently funded first and foremost, but may allow for the extension of all-day kindergarten programs and the addition of Asian language instruction at the high school.

The renewal levy rate is tentatively set at $2.75 per $1,000 assessed property value compared to $3.10 for the current four-year levy that expires next year.

The amount collected would be approximately $9.1 million in 2007, going up to about $10.5 million in 2010. However, the district can only collect up to the levy amount so the rate may fluctuate depending on property values.

District officials will present information about the levy at the Dec. 6 City Council District 3 meeting at the Bremerton Senior Center in Manette and also plans to hold meetings at the YMCA and Lions Club.

BSD feels positively about the potential success of the levy following the support for the May bond and the re-election of two school board members earlier this month. Campaign partner Central Kitsap, meanwhile, did not pass its bond in May and is hoping for better success with voters this time around.

The levy will be the first schools’ measure since all-mail voting was enacted in Kitsap County. Carlson said research shows many voters wait to send in their ballots until the last possible day, so the campaign will continue up through Feb. 7, 2006.

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