Opinion

Everything Bremerton: Community comment

In the later part of my three years serving the Bremerton School District via the District Finance Committee, the possibility of a capital improvement levy needed today was revealed two years ago.

After reviewing the list of recommendations made by the District Facility Committee this fall – which was very difficult to locate on the district website – I find that the information available to the community at this time is too limited for an informed, honest and detailed discussion on whether or not the levy should proceed. This lack of detail and information about what would be included in the capital levy, combined with a very short discussion and submission timeline has impacted and limited community attendance and contributions.

I am at a loss as to why known information about the state and health of every building and facility in the district is not updated and made available to the community on an annual basis.  Educating the community about the condition of facilities, upcoming mandated upgrade requirements and the repair or replacement rotations should have begun more than a year ago.

School district properties are community buildings that house community children.

The equivalent of a yearly physical report back to the community is not too much to ask. By not making this information known well in advance, the district is hanging on to a possible levy passage or failure via an uninformed slippery slope of apathetic public opinion instead of a well traveled, highly populated, easy path that consists of a year’s worth of established facts and big picture community understanding. As for my position on the projects known to me at this time, I am for a capital levy that includes the district kitchen facility replacement/upgrade.

I have been following the Wellness Facility/Teen Center project that will soon be located on the old East Bremerton Junior High School property. I have testified more than once to the Bremerton City Council on the passage of resolutions that have to do with the continuation of city involvement or funding for the project.  I also personally and financially support the existing Boys and Girls Club at Naval Avenue.

Anytime you have a community project of this scope that is a joining of public dollars, combined resources and private sector investments through various community partners it is a positive situation for everyone involved. This is an opportunity for the Bremerton community to invest in itself and its youth. The Bremerton School District should make every effort to do its part and make a valuable contribution in the form of new up to date kitchen facilities.

I am against the STEM expansion at West Hills being a part of the capital levy. If private dollars through community partners can be found, then the expansion should proceed. If the district cannot pay for their portion of it, after community partner contributions, through the existing budget, then the expansion should not occur. I am the parent of a current STEM student. I have attended several presentations over the past year on the STEM program.

The West Hills STEM program was originally sold to this community as a program that would not increase costs to the district.  Because of its popularity, and the popularity of the Montessori program, an increased number of in-district and out-of-district students want to attend West Hills.

I have a real issue with an increased financial burden of this expansion being placed on Bremerton taxpayers for expenses incurred by an increased out of district student population. It would be a complete violation of trust between the community and the district if the district decided to proceed with a capital levy for a couple of programs it originally touted as self-sustaining.

I want the STEM program to continue to be a success and model for other districts to follow. However, funding sources other than a capital improvement levy for any expansions should be used.

I favor including the roof replacements at the schools that are at or near the end of their life expectancy. Repairs such as these are routine and expected.

The current operations and maintenance levy is set to expire in 2014. That means if the burden of the capital levy is considered to be too hefty and too steep by this community, a voter backlash over the passage of renewing the operations and maintenance levy will occur in 2014. The district simply cannot survive financially without a renewal under the current funding by state legislature.

Despite the statistics from the past, this community suffers under economic conditions that have not been experienced by taxpayers for decades. Taxpayers are getting hit with increased taxes and fees from nearly every taxation district that has the jurisdictional power to impose these increases.

The Citizens for Good Schools Bremerton committee has a lot of work ahead of them. Work, to some extent, that could have been alleviated by a better communicating school district and continuous sharing of information with the community about the ongoing status and state of district facilities every year instead of waiting until nearly the last minute to release only a marginal amount of information as it asks for more public money.

The topic of improved communication has been one both the district and the school board has labeled as a need for improvement. The current situation with the possible upcoming capital levy and the lack of community knowledge and participation makes it very obvious that a considerable amount of improvement in this area is still needed.

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