School board passes resolutions for levy, bond

Schools: Capital levy measure includes contingency language

of the GatewayMarch 12, 2014 

The Peninsula School District’s board of directors approved language Thursday night for two capital funding measures that will be on the August primary ballot.

In separate 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 that states if the bond — known as Proposition 1 — passes, then the levy will decrease to only fund technology improvements.

The next step will be to get the resolutions approved by the Pierce County Auditor’s office.

Thursday’s vote marked the end of a string of 13 meetings that discussed possible funding measures for the school district’s 30-year plan. It also marked the beginning of a district-wide education effort to communicate to voters the unique strategy.

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

“It’s March; the election’s in August,” he said. “That’s five months away. That gives us some time to educate (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. He didn’t want to support funding technology improvements with a bond, because the mechanism would be a long-term payback for a rapidly changing area.

“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,” Wilkinson said.

There are a few differences in the project lists for the measures. Both 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 also would overhaul middle school classrooms, whereas the levy would only upgrade them.

In addition, the bond would “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 levy passes with a simple majority but the bond fails to garner the required 60 percent supermajority, the improvements would amount to about $1.19 per $1,000 of assessed property value for five years. If both measures pass, the levy would drop to about 4 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for five years.

If the bond passes, it would collect $60 million and have an estimated 20-year payoff. Cuzzetto said he and school district staff members worked to keep bond rates at less than $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Board member Wendy Wojtanowicz was hesitant about the approach but said it was “all about compromise” as she voted yes on both resolutions.

Wojtanowicz said she’s concerned that communicating the differences between measures could be challenging.

“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 voters’ education, would represent 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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