South Kitsap’s Levy History

I needed to make a correction on the story I wrote about South Kitsap School District’s upcoming levy.

Prior to passing its first four-year levy in 2001, the district failed to pass a two-year levy in February, 2000 (I had the wrong year). The levy failed again in April. In previous history, the district also failed to pass levies in 1994 (two strikes) and February, 1995. The levy passed in April, 1995, but the district encountered failure again in 1997 (two strikes) and in February, 1998, before the levy passed in April that year.

Looking at South Kitsap’s levy history since 1973 (below), it’s apparent why board members and levy supporters don’t assume passage of the proposed four-year levy on Feb. 3 as a slam dunk. Granted, as of 2007, passage of levies no longer requires a 60 percent “super-majority.” A simple 50+ percent majority is now the bar. But given the poor economy, South Kitsap voters’ memory of the Port of Bremerton’s tax for the new Bremerton marina, taxpayers’ concerns about the potential cost of the Bethel Corridor and other worries, the South Kitsap School Supporters heading up the levy campaign is taking nothing for granted.

The group is organizing now for the 2009 levy. Anyone interested in joining them, can contact Shawn Cucciardi, who’s heading up the effort, at (360) 895-0142 or e-mail

LEVY    May     1973    2580    1454    64.20%     Passed
LEVY    April    1974    2719    1996    57.60%     Failed
BOND    April    1974    2275    2430    48.30%     Failed
BOND    November    1975    4071    2766    59.54%     Failed
BOND    January     1976    4214    1810    69.95%     Passed
LEVY    April    1976    1601    2555    38.52%     Failed
LEVY    April    1978    1808    1192    60.20%     Passed
LEVY    May    1980    1312    1993    39.70%     Failed
LEVY    September    1982    4130    3998    50.81%     Failed
LEVY    November     1982    6684    5999    52.70%     Failed
LEVY    February    1983    2965    1621    *64.65%     Failed
LEVY    April    1983    3708    1617    69.60%     Passed
LEVY    February    1985    2908    1380    *67.82%     Failed
LEVY    May    1985    3738    1578    *70.31%     Failed
LEVY    February    1986    4162    2663    60.98%     Passed
BOND    February    1987    2722    1959    58.15%     Failed
BOND    May    1987    2621    2185    54.54%     Failed
BOND    February    1988    3993    1939    67.31%     Passed
LEVY    February    1988    4023    1930    67.58%     Passed
LEVY    February    1990    3458    1650    67.70%     Passed
LEVY    February    1992    4476    2124    67.82%     Passed
BOND    February    1993    3053    2910    51.20%     Failed
LEVY    February    1994    4265    3573    54.41%     Failed
LEVY    May    1994    5263    4122    56.08%     Failed
LEVY    Feb.    1995    6790    5442    55.51%     Failed
LEVY    April    1995    8325    4754    63.65%     Passed
BOND    May    1996    3834    6508    37.07%     Failed

LEVY    February    1997    6017    5737    51.19%     Failed
LEVY    April    1997    9053    6602    57.83%     Failed
LEVY    February    1998    11,855    9,580    55.31%     Failed
LEVY    April    1998    12,415    7,602    62.02%    Passed
LEVY    February    2000    10,275    8,811    53.84%    Failed
LEVY    April    2000    9,502    7,254    56.71%    Failed
4-YR. LEVY    February    2001    14,447    7,601    65.63%    PASSED
4-YR, LEVY    February     2005    12,526    7,133    63.72%    PASSED
BOND    March    2007    10,598    9,508    52.71%    FAILED

South Kitsap School District No. 402

20 thoughts on “South Kitsap’s Levy History

  1. The South Kitsap School Supporters are organizing for the 2009 levy and a contact person was given in the blog. If by any chance a group who does not support the levy becomes known will it be given the same coverage as to having contact information included in the blog? Just curious. Also you give results for the levy for many years, but why not the amounts requested so the readers can make a comparison on the monetary requests of the district? Again, just curious.
    Roger Gay
    South Kitsap

  2. Roger,

    If a group organizes against the levy, I hope the contact information will be presented in the SK Blog. I’ll need a point of contact to setup a couple of community debates on the issue. I’m not saying this to be argumentative (no pun intended). I’m sincere in wanting to debate the merits of the levy for our community. I am confident that such discussion will only help pass the levy.

    Your comments that this is the largest levy request in district history is correct. However, that point must also be taken in context. Simple inflation makes each levy request almost impossible to be less than the previous levy. Further, we request levies every four years. Even an inflation rate of only 3% per year would equal a 12% increase over four years.

    Another fact for your consideration… the 2005-2009 levy was planned in anticipation of several necessary maintenance projects being covered by funds from passage of the bond request in 2007. Unfortunately, the bond didn’t pass. That doesn’t eliminate the need to replace roofs, HVAC systems, do safety electrical upgrades, and other necessary projects. It does mean that the most pressing of these needs must be part of the 2010-2013 levy plan.

    One more fact to consider. SKSD receives “Local Effort Assistance” (LEA), which is the state’s formula to compensate districts that have smaller tax bases. As our property values and tax base increased closer to the state average, our LEA funding has decreased. In 2002, the LEA was $2.4 million. We anticipate the 2010-2013 LEA to be about $1.0 million per year. So, even though our levy need is going up (inflation and costs), our LEA funding is going down. In order to just maintain, we have to ask for more in local property taxes because we won’t be getting as much LEA.

    I’m working on a spreadsheet to outline SKSD Levy History. I have the numbers for 1998-2013.

    Kathryn Simpson

  3. Year Property Tax Levy LEA Prop. Tax + LEA
    1998 zero zero 1997 votes failed (zero levy collected)
    1999 $9,765,000.00 LEA data not available
    2000 $10,200,000.00 LEA data not available
    2001 zero zero 2000 votes failed (Zero levy collected)
    2002 $10,945,000.00 $2,485,885.00 $13,430,885.00
    2003 $11,315,000.00 $2,413,242.00 $13,728,242.00
    2004 $11,700,000.00 $2,358,023.00 $14,058,023.00
    2005 $12,075,000.00 $2,246,463.00 $14,321,463.00
    2006 $12,574,711.00 $1,953,981.00 $14,528,692.00
    2007 $13,104,743.00 $1,952,727.00 $15,057,470.00
    2008 $13,691,098.00 $1,400,543.00 $15,091,641.00
    2009 $14,302,084.00 $1,000,000.00 $15,302,084.00
    2010 $16,392,000.00 $1,000,000.00 $17,392,000.00
    2011 $16,882,000.00 $1,000,000.00 $17,882,000.00
    2012 $17,746,000.00 $1,000,000.00 $18,746,000.00
    2013 $19,004,000.00 $1,000,000.00 $20,004,000.00

    The above data was collected today from information on the OSPI website.

    Kathryn Simpson

  4. Explanation of table above (columns got lost in the upload, sorry)…

    The first number is the year of levy collection. The second number is the dollar value of the levy collected from local property owners. The third number is dollar amount of “Local Effort Assistance” (LEA) for that year. For 2010-2013, the LEA is estimated to average $1,000,000 per year for the four years. Though it will likely be more in the first year and less in the fourth. The final dollar number is the local property taxes and the LEA totaled together for the year.

    For a complete outline of 2010-2013 levy plan, please see the links in my next post. I’m posting them separately because posts with links sometimes get lost in the ether.

    Kathryn Simpson

  5. Roger – If there were an organized group opposed to the levy, I would report on them and include contact information. Chris

  6. Here is the 1999 levy equalization (“local effort assistance”) figure: $1,831,282.

    Here is the 2000 LEA figure: $2,339,821.

    Part of the increase in 2000 was caused by a change in state law. LEA had been distributed to help add the first 10 percent to regular funding with a local levy. Then, it was increased to help add the first 12 percent. This change in state law would have increased LEA by 20 percent all by itself — to about $2,197,538. Apparently, SKSD’s property valuation didn’t increase as fast as the statewide average, and that caused the rest of the increase in 2000.

  7. I just noticed that Kathryn didn’t include the projected LEA for 2009. It is supposed to be $1,453,358.

    Of course, with the state facing a huge deficit, the legislature might do what they did the last time we had a recession — reduce LEA.

    But I doubt they would do it for 2009. It would probably happen in 2010 and after.

    It was reduced to 99 percent of the amount it would have been under the statutory formula for 2003, then to 93.7 percent of the “formula amount” in 2004 and 2005, and then increased a little to 95.63 percent of the formula amount in 2006. Finally in 2007 we were back up to the statutory formula amount.

  8. I guess putting two links in my first two comments caused the software to put them aside “awaiting moderation.” The third comment seems to be posted without “awaiting moderation” with its one link. The first two comments provide the levy equalization figures for 1999 and 2000 and the levy amounts and levy equalization amounts for 1996 and 1997. Here they are without the links to the source documents:
    1996: $7,354,000 levy, $1,673,331 equalization
    1997: $7,214,000 levy, $1,629,353 eq’n
    1999: $1,831,282 eq’n
    2000: $2,339,821 eq’n

  9. Thanks, Bob. I think I had it in there and then overwrote it with the same value as the new levy estimate for LEA

    It is interesting to note that we receive much less LEA these days than we did just a few years ago. With the 3.2 Billion looming deficit, I worry that some LEA will be on the chopping block.

    Kathryn Simpson

  10. Kathryn, I’m pretty sure LEA will be reduced, just as it was before. The funding cut didn’t affect all districts, so many districts didn’t mind the cut at all — and our legislators didn’t fight for us when the cut was proposed. Since the mistake was made long ago to sue the state, the court decisions from way back then prevent any reduction in what the legislature defined as “basic education” funding — and LEA isn’t basic education funding. When something has to be cut, only things like LEA can be — which hurts some districts and leaves other districts unscathed.

  11. Bob,

    Sounds like a good topic to bring up to the legislative candidates at the roundtable discussion on Wednesday, October 8, 2008, at 6:00pm, at the SKSD District Office Board Room. This will be an opportunity for the Board to talk with our legislative candidates about education issues. While we likely won’t be taking questions from the public, the public is invited and can see how the candidates feel about public education and what their legislative positions may be.

    The Board hopes to use this opportunity to educate legislative candidates on issues important to our district.

    (end shameless plug) 🙂

    Kathryn Simpson

  12. What are bonds and levies used for? I thought the levy was used to pick up where the State left off at funding basic education. If the school did not want sports, band, after school activities, etc. the need for levies would be less. School districts do not seem capable of supplying “basic education” as defined by the state legislature without many additional items they deem necessary to a education. Those must be supplied by the local taxpayer. I thought bonds were used for capitol projects, building new schools, major emergent repairs, and large purchases, like computer systems, etc. I gather when the 07 bond failed the district had not budgeted for failure of repair funding and they are now adding that to the new levy request amount. Sounds like poor planning and budgeting has driven the school district to request over $70,000,000.00. If the LEA was so variable a funding source why was it used in a way the taxpayer would be forced to continue to support? It is like working overtime and when the overtime disappears, asking your neighbor to give up part of his paycheck so you can continue to live as you did with the overtime money. So what does the school board think bonds and levies should be used for? When will the other shoe drop and the request for a bond to fund a new high school and all the other maintenance items be released to the public? You add up the last year of the old levy and this new request it comes to over 84 million dollars over 5 years. That is a lot of funds to have the taxpayer shell out for coverage the State does not fully fund. It will be interesting to see what questions the board asks and the probable lack of answers from the candidates.
    Roger Gay
    South Kitsap

  13. Roger, you ask: “If the LEA was so variable a funding source why was it used in a way the taxpayer would be forced to continue to support?”

    “Local Effort Assistance,” also called levy equalization funding, is state funding that goes to school districts whose tax rates are higher than the average. The idea is to equalize to some extent the tax burden on local taxpayers.

    LEA is figured based on the tax rate needed to add 12 percent to the district’s regular state and federal funding. This “12 percent rate” for every school district is calculated and compared to the average for the whole state. Those who need a higher rate to add 12 percent to their regular funding get LEA so their local taxpayers won’t have to pay the entire amount that is needed to supplement the regular state and federal funding.

    When our property values soared in the period from 2004 through 2006, they rose even faster than King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, not just faster than the statewide average. This drove our “12 percent rate” down compared to the statewide average. We’re still eligible for LEA, just not as much.

    LEA has to vary with property values, unless you can come up with some other way to measure the need for it — and convince the legislature that your alternative is better than what is now the law.

  14. Roger,

    I’m going to try and respond to your post in two responses. The first will address levies and the second will address bonds.

    The way I remember it is that “Bonds Build” and “Levies Lift”. Bonds build and refurbish our buildings. Levies were intended for lifting education past the basics (which, as you said, is supposed to be state funded) and pay for “enhancements” (like athletics, drama, debate, school libraries, extras like athletics, drama, debate, .

    As you alluded to, the State has been underfunding it’s responsibility for many years now which has placed a heavier burden on local property owners in supporting larger levies in order to cover the difference between the state funding and what it really costs to provide basic education for our students. The state’s abdication of its responsibility is the reason school districts across the state are facing cuts despite passing levies.

    At a school board directors legislative conference I participated in last weekend, OSPI Superintendent Terry Bergesen acknowledged that the state underfunds basic education to the tune of $1,097,000,000 per year (yes, that is 1.1 BILLION). SKSD has about 1% of the just over 1 million students in the state. That equates to underfunding our district by about $10,970,000 per year.

    I work with school board directors from across the state (as part of the school board director’s legislative committee) and we are working hard to get the State to meet its constitutional obligation. In fact, many districts (including South Kitsap) have joined a lawsuit to compel the State to meet its obligations.

    In the mean time, we have two choices… not ask local property owners for larger levies and try and keep the doors open and provide sub-standard education with inadequate state funding OR ask for larger levies and depend on the good graces of local voters to do what needs to be done, even though it isn’t really supposed to be the responsibility of local levies.

    Almost all communities want the best education possible for the kids in their community so step up and support the larger levies. I have confidence that South Kitsap will do this because it is what is best for our community and our kids as the State and the Legislature sort out the funding issues (with a lot of pressure from constituents).

    State funding was at a similar crossroads in the mid 1970’s. Districts sued. The “Doran” decisions made a difference. It is a shame that we have to go down this road again, but things must change. That is a message I intend to share with the legislative candidates on Wednesday and have shared with our elected officials for three years now.

    All this being said, I understand your frustration. I am extremely frustrated by the delays. But in the mean time, we have kids in our community that deserve a quality education. We have a community that needs our kids better educated and better prepared for the future now more than ever before. For that, we need to vote “YES” on the levy and we need to elect legislators who will insist on addressing the education funding issue.

    Kathryn Simpson

  15. Just as basic education is defined as a state responsibility, school facilities are a local responsibility.

    When the 2007 bond didn’t pass the major project needs list didn’t change (aside from the new construction). For example, the roof at Orchard Heights was in the bond plan. Of course, putting projects off only becomes more expensive in the long run. Unfortunately, when we have limited dollars, we must prioritize.

    The last bond that did pass was in 1988, more than 20 years ago, and has been paid off for a couple of years now. The district currently has no bond debt. In some ways, that is a good thing (not to have debt). On the other hand, it also means that there is not a funding stream for major capital projects either.

    That puts us in a conundrum. Do we ask for a larger levy to take on at least the most imperative of the facility projects or do we defer maintenance and repairs and risk an emergency that will be costly and inconvenient if one of those roofs fails in January and we have to shuffle kids out of a building mid-year?

    Some think that districts have large savings accounts full of money that we hide away for rainy days. As I described in the previous post, the State’s abdication of its responsibility to basic education has compelled school districts to use their reserve funds (which is a bit misleading of a term). Thus, there is no “wiggle” room in district budgets anymore. We have a limited contingency fund, but as you can see from the levy plan, even that is itemized and is minimal.

    Some see our cash reserve as a big pot of money. However, school districts work to maintain a 3-5% reserve balance for simple cash-flow purposes and sound business practice. These are not funds that are available for routine maintenance.

    I hope this answers some of your questions. Please continue to ask questions. The dialog is important. Perhaps it won’t convince you to vote “YES”, but I hope it will help you understand the issues.

    Kathryn Simpson

  16. Kathryn, you say: “Districts sued. The “Doran” decisions made a difference.”

    From what I’ve seen, we are now back to the same level of reliance on local levy funding statewide as in the 1970s. The Doran decisions made a difference for only about 4 years. Once there had been a “decent interval” after the state supreme court’s decision, the legislature went right back to what they had been doing.

    The key is that greater state funding for schools must come from districts which pay taxes to the state in greater proportion than they get revenue for their schools from the state. In other words, residents of Bainbridge Island, Mercer Island, Seattle, Bellevue, etc., must be willing to pay for the education of all children in the state, not just in their own districts.

    This is a legislative problem, not a court problem.

    People need to stop electing legislators who give lip service to education and then vote with their party to spend the state’s revenue on social programs rather than on schools. I don’t need to name the party, do I?

    Trouble is, the other party offers no viable alternative. Claiming that waste and abuse and union thugs are the problem, and claiming that all would be well even without greater state funding won’t result in electing people who will fix the problem. Again, no need to name the party, right?

  17. Bob,

    I can’t argue with what you said. I can only hope and pray that whoever gets elected will work in a bipartisan fashion to do the right thing for our education system. Our future depends on it. Frankly, our present could use a little help too!

    Kathryn Simpson

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