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NKSD renewal levy on ballot

POULSBO — North Kitsap schools are depending on the community for its support of students’ educational, extra-curricular, technological and maintenance needs with a renewal school support levy up for election. And voters won’t even be asked to go to the polls.

They will, however, be asked to return their vote-by-mail ballots by Feb. 7.

In the four-year, $40 million renewal levy, the North Kitsap School District is asking voters to renew their support of schools and continue funding NKSD programs.

If it fails, the district will be forced to make budget cuts that could change the face of both educational and extra-curricular activities, not to mention the possible negative impact on school maintenance and transportation.

“(This levy) is critical to maintain the programs that we have,” said NKSD finance director Nancy Moffatt. “In 2005-06, (levy funds) provided $10.2 million out of a total budget of $55 million.”

Levy funds account for 19 percent of the district’s overall budget. State dollars contribute nearly 68 percent and federal money kicks in almost 8 percent, while the remaining 5 percent comes from local sources, according to NKSD reports.

Although many feel it should be the state’s responsibility to allocate enough funds for public education, founder and former director of the North Kitsap Citizens for Schools committee and now North Kitsap Education Foundation member Jane Ritley said they don’t even come close.

“Unfortunately, the state has not stepped up in filling in the spots where funding is needed,” said Ritley, who has been involved with NKSD levies since their revival in 1983. “When you have a district like North Kitsap, the transportation costs alone are phenomenal. The state has not come close to fulfilling its obligation so levies cover what they don’t.”

If this levy passes, 71 percent of tax dollars collected would go straight into the heart of schools: the classrooms. Certified teacher and support staff salaries would account for 54 percent of funds, while 17 percent would go toward teacher support programs including textbooks, special education services, technology and software, and program development. Twelve percent of funds would support athletics, clubs and activities, and the remaining chunk would be apportioned between school safety/maintenance and student transportation.

When asked what could result if this renewal levy fails, NKSD citizen’s committee chair Debbie Anderson said, “There (are) 30 teachers we’d lose right off the bat. I think we’d see a decrease in our children’s learning. Athletics would start costing more than they do, parents would have to get their kids to school ... it could go on and on.”

However, the fact that the North Kitsap community has been supportive of its schools for several years has district officials optimistic, Moffatt said. North Kitsap voters have supported school levies for nearly 20 consecutive years since the early 1980s when the North Kitsap Taxpayers Association led a campaign to discourage and ultimately kill school levies.

“(Back then), we had textbooks still talking about hoping to put a man on the moon, it was really quite deplorable,” Ritley recalled. “The (community’s) mentality has changed drastically. One of the benefits of the increased population has been a higher expectation of our education system and the willingness to fund it.”

The NK community has been willing to fund school district levies in all but one year since 1984.

What will it cost?

The total amount of the levy to be collected will be on a fixed rate based on what voters approve. On this ballot, the district is asking for $40 million over four years.

“We’re asking for the maximum, which is where we have been for the last four years” Moffatt said. “But the rate per thousand is going down because the assessed valuation of the district is increasing rapidly.”

The levy rate is figured on a per $1,000 basis of the total assessed property value. This year’s estimated cost is $2.15 per $1,000, which is down from the previous levy of $2.38 per $1,000.

Though property values in North Kitsap have surged, taxes have not increased proportionately. As the assessed value of the district goes up, the rate per thousand actually goes down because the fixed amount collected is spread across all taxable property owners within the district, including the many new developments springing up around North Kitsap.

The cost would be shared by all, however, senior and disabled citizens may qualify for tax exemption. For more information, interested residents can call the Kitsap County Auditor’s office at (360) 337-7128.

Additional information on the renewal levy can be found at the district Web site, www.nksd.wednet.edu or by calling NKSD director of community relations Chris Case at (360) 779-8703.

GRAY BOX

What is the annual levy cost to homeowners?

Assessed Levy Rate Annual

Value per Homeowner

of Home Thousand Cost

$150,000 $2.15 $322

$200,000 $2.15 $430

$250,000 $2.15 $537

$300,000 $2.15 $645

$350,000 $2.15 $752

Source: North Kitsap School District

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