Peninsula School District board passes resolutions for levy, bond

Schools: Capital levy measure includes contingency language

of the GatewayMarch 6, 2014 

In this file photo from 2013, members of the Peninsula School District Board of Directors unveil a sign at the site of a future school in Gig Harbor North. The new school would be financed under a capital bond or levy resolution passed by the board.

HUGH MCMILLAN — Special to the Gateway

The Peninsula School District board of directors approved the language of two capital funding measures for the August ballot. The next step for the resolutions is approval by the Pierce County Auditor.

In two unanimous votes, the board approved a $60 million capital bond and a $55.9 million capital improvement levy to run side by side on the ballot. The levy has contingency language in it, stating if the bond -- known as Proposition 1 -- passes, then the levy will decrease to only fund technology improvements.

The vote marks the end of a string of 13 meetings discussing possible funding measures for the district's 30-year plan. It also marks the beginning of an education effort on the part of the district to communicate to voters the unique side-by-side strategy.

Superintendent Chuck Cuzzetto is supportive of the two-measure move, saying that the education of the public is essential, but not an insurmountable task.

“It’s March, the election’s in August. That’s five months away," he said. "That gives us some time to educate (the voters).”

The language approved for the levy -- Proposition 2 -- says: "...if Proposition 1 passes, the levy will be used for technology improvements only and the levy will be reduced (to $400,000 per year for five years)."

Board member Matt Wilkinson said the levy with a contingency is a good move for the district. He is not supportive of funding technology improvements with a bond. In his view, it is funding rapidly changing technology with long-term payback.

“We’re buying switches, routers, fiber-optic cables… and we finance it in a way that we’re not throwing them out before we’re done paying for them,” he said.

There are a few differences in the project lists for the measures. Both measures would finance construction of a new school in Gig Harbor North, replace Artondale Elementary enhance security at school sites and upgrade field facilities. The bond would overhaul middle school classrooms whereas the levy would only upgrade them. The bond would also "modernize" Key Peninsula Middle School while the levy would provide only upgrades such as fire flow improvements.

There are several scenarios for funding. If the bond fails, but the levy passes, the improvements will amount to $1.19 per $1,000 assessed value for five years. If both measures pass, the levy will amount to 4 cents per $1,000 assessed value for five years.

The bond, if passed, will collect $60 million and has an estimated 20 year payoff. Cuzzetto and the district staff worked to keep bond rates under $1 per $1,000 assessed value.

Board member Wendy Wojtanowicz was hesitant about the approach, but said it was "all about compromise" as she voted yes on both the bond and levy resolutions.

Wojtanowicz is concerned that communicating the differences between measures will be a stumbling block for the district. 

“My gut is telling me it could almost be too big of a stumbling block,” she said.

Board president Harlan Gallinger addressed concerns that the language would be confusing. He said the contingency, with education of voters, represents a uniting of the community.

“It is compromise and I think it’s a good message to our community that (schools) are worth compromising for,” he said.

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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