Peninsula School District to run both bond, levy in August

Schools: Newest board member casts deciding vote in a move to put two measures on primary ballot

of the GatewayFebruary 6, 2014 

Peninsula School District Superintendent Chuck Cuzzetto speaks to school board members last month during a public-input meeting in the Broness Room of the Key Center branch of the Pierce County Library System.


The process of deciding what to take to voters is over for the Peninsula School District Board of Directors. Now they'll start to get their message to the public prior to the August primary election.

The school board voted 3-2 Thursday night to put both a $60 million capital bond and a $55.9 million capital levy on the ballot in August.

After much deliberation, board member David Olson cast the deciding vote. Board members Matt Wilkinson and Harlan Gallinger, who suggested the two-measure move, voted yes. Board members Wendy Wojtanowicz and Rand Wilhelmsen were opposed.

Gallinger, the board president, requested there be "contingency language on the levy" when he proposed the concept. Both measures would go on the ballot, likely as Proposition 1 and Proposition 2. If both pass, the $55.9 million levy would shrink considerably and only cover technology improvements, not capital projects.

If the levy passes and the bond fails, capital projects, such as a new building for Artondale Elementary and a school in Gig Harbor North, would proceed with levy funding.

Vice versa, if the bond passes and levy fails: Only bond projects would go through.

It wasn't a consensus. Gallinger said he thinks the idea is "out of the box" and would motivate voters to make a choice. Wojtanowicz said she thinks it will further split a community that is already divided.

The tension in the room at the school district's administrative building was palpable. There were few seats available throughout the nearly four-hour meeting. It's been a long, harrowing process to find middle ground between the school board and the Citizens for Responsible School Spending, which has spearheaded efforts to defeat the past two school funding measures.

The citizens group, led by Ken Manning and Jerry Gibbs, sat down with Gallinger, Olson and Superintendent Chuck Cuzzetto. They said they would support a bond that is less than $1 a year. The $60 million bond measure that will go to voters aims to cost about 95 to 97 cents a year.

Before the vote for double measures, Gibbs said he felt "hornswaggled" by the decision. He had said he and his group would support a bond or a technology levy, but not a capital levy.

The resolution includes all three of those things, and Gibbs said he is worried it will be confusing for voters.

"You're trying, I think, a little too hard to make everybody happy," Gibbs told the board.

Before the vote, Cuzzetto told the board the measures would take a large-scale education campaign. It would mean presentations at groups such as the Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce and Kiwanis.

"People would need to understand how this works," he said.

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

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