With the failure of the Peninsula School District’s levy in the November election, it will be back to the chalkboard for the district.
“I was glad to see that the majority of the community agreed that it was fundamentally not a good plan,” Jerry Gibbs, who was a leader of the opposition, said. “And it was reasonable to ask the school board to go back to the drawing board.”
Gibbs was out on Friday morning picking up the “No” signs. While a “necessary evil” pre-election, he’s not a fan of signage and was committed to cleaning them up election week.
Both sides know the school district has needs that need to be addressed. Even after the election, the district and the Citizens for Responsible Student Spending want to continue reaching out to the community and talking about what needs to be done. The real stickler is exactly how it needs to be done.
“If we can’t come up with external sources, we’re going to have to come up with internal sources (of revenue),” Superintendent Chuck Cuzzetto said. That means “difficult conversations” for the board about what money to reassign from the district’s general fund.
The revenue into the general fund — from local, national and state sources — is $86,782,284. However, the 2013-2014 estimates the expenditures will total about $88 million. With carryovers and capacity, the expense and income is expected to be equal. There isn’t much breathing room.
The largest slice of the general fund pie goes to regular instruction — the nuts and bolts of education. But the fund also slices off sections for special education, vocational instruction and community service.
Gibbs and his committee want a seat at the table for a problem-solving process. In the next few weeks, Citizens for Responsible Student Spending will have a series of committee meetings to write up a proposal to present to the school board. The committee doesn’t want to be a thorn in the district’s side, but Gibbs said he felt like the committee’s previous suggestions have “fallen on deaf ears.” Now that the latest measure has failed, he thinks the district might be willing to listen.
The district has its own plans for engagement. Boardmember Harlan Gallinger suggested at the school board’s most recent meeting that the district plan more outreach meetings in order to gauge what the taxpayers want to see. Meetings have been set for this week.
This isn’t the first near-miss for the district. When a 2011 bond failed, the list of priorities was broken down and those designated the highest priority — a new elementary school, a new Artondale, field maintenance, technology and security — turned into the 2013 levy. Now that this levy has failed, it’s time to look elsewhere. The levy that didn’t pass would have brought in $50 million to split into different projects — a new elementary school in Gig Harbor North, a building to replace Artondale Elementary, field upgrades, technology purchases and security upgrades.
“The needs don’t go away because the levy failed,” Cuzzetto said. Now, the board must “roll up their sleeves,” he said, and find a way to fill the needs of the district.
He said there is still a “significant” need at Artondale, as well as needed field updates, security implementation and technology funding to help students “get up to speed.”
Now that the levy has been voted down, Gibbs and the Citizens for Responsible Student Spending are changing focus — but not too much. Gibbs said the members and donors to the “no campaign” would like to see the group become a local oversight group for all taxing authorities. That includes the school district, parks and libraries.
For now, Gibbs is picking up the signs.
“This is a beautiful community,” he said. “... political signs make it tacky.”