Peninsula School district to run funding measure in August

Ballot: Staff members to prepare sample language for levy or bond option in primary election

of the GatewayJanuary 29, 2014 

The Peninsula School District Board of Directors will run a funding option in the Aug. 5 Primary Election. It’s not clear yet what that option will be.

In a marathon four-hour meeting at Goodman Middle School on Thursday, the board heard from staff and community members about the different options to fund a new school, among other projects.

There are two possible measures in the works. The board directed Superintendent Chuck Cuzzetto and staff members to draft sample language for a resolution based on either Option B or a restructured form of Option E.

Option B, the most popular during the public meetings and in an online survey, would build a new school in Gig Harbor North, rebuild Artondale Elementary, upgrade Key Peninsula Middle School’s infrastructure and provide upgrades to fields, technology and security.

Option E will be different. Originally, it was a combination deal: A two-year levy and a bigger bond. Now, the levy portion has been tossed out, and the option will be to run it solely as a bond, likely $71.5 million.

Board member Matt Wilkinson said he has reservations about eliminating the two-year levy option that would have funded technology.

Wilkinson, who works in computer support at CSC Bangor, doesn’t want to fund technology with a bond measure because he said it won’t keep up with changing technology.

“If we finance hardware for 20 years, we’re squandering that money,” he said. “(It) just is a really bad idea, because you have to buy (computers) again and again and again, and you’re paying the interest rate on stuff you’re not even using anymore.”

Board member David Olson said his impression is that people voted down the levy option because they want a bond for capital improvements. Furthermore, a bond would mean that both Artondale and the Gig Harbor North school could be built at the same time, he said.

With overcrowding at the elementary level, it would be a way to get a jump on the problem, Olson said.

“I think that’s important to be able to get ahead,” he said.

Several of the five options from last week’s public forums were tossed out, notably the two that would have funded a renovation of Artondale Elementary instead of a full rebuild.

Those two options, known as Option C and Option D, weren’t particularly popular with the public. In the community surveys during the meetings, which included an anonymous polling system, Option C garnered only two votes, while Option D had 19.

Much of the discussion centered on what the response to a new measure may be. Ken Manning, part of the opposition in the last election, took issue with the term “ ‘no’ campaign.”

“It’s not that we’re all about no, it’s that we’re about responsible school spending,” he said.

Olson said he wanted to sit down with the Citizens for Responsible School Spending and hear their side. He said if the group would be able to support a school district measure, then he would feel comfortable going to voters.

Manning said he and his group would like to see draft language of what options would go to voters. He also favored a November election run date.

Historically, November elections have not been an easy ride for the school district. The levy last November failed, as well as a bond in 1992. In fact, from 1992 to 2012, the district passed eight of 17 funding measures, many of those during the spring.

In that span, only one bond passed — May 2003. The last bond that went to voters, in 2011, also failed. The district did not run any measures in August during that time span.

Board member Wendy Wojtanowicz pitched the idea of an August election as a compromise. Before she suggested it, the board was debating either April, which is better historically, or November, which was preferred at the community meetings.

Wojtanowicz thinks the board needs more time to educate those who didn’t vote in the last election.

It was a unanimous vote to go with August, but it didn’t look like it when the board members said “aye.” Board President Harlan Gallinger prefaced his vote by saying he was “reluctant.” Board member Rand Wilhelmsen shook his head when he voted.

REDISTRICTING

Cuzzetto also updated the board on the upcoming redistricting process. So far, 70 people have applied to be members of the redistricting committee, he said.

“That’s good news and bad news,” he said. “A committee of 70 is not going to get a lot done.”

There will be an elimination process for the committee, Cuzzetto said. Once it’s formed, the committee will look at data, boundary options and transportation scenarios before it recommends new school boundaries to the board.

Ideally, Cuzzetto said, the new boundaries would go into effect at the start of the 2015-16 school year.

SQUIRES AWARD

Also at the meeting, paraeducators from Voyager Elementary won the Mary Lee Squires award. Cuzzetto said it’s a rare and special award because it honors teamwork.

Fittingly, the paraeducators will share it.

Reporter Karen Miller can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at karen.miller@gateline.com. Follow her on Twitter, @gateway_karen.

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