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Kent School District officials and volunteers gear up for levy renewals
BY ROSS COYLE
“Someday we may be fully funded with state and federal dollars, but until that day we’ll need local money,” said Kent Educators Associat Cindy Prescott.
Until the state Legislature fully funds education programs in public schools, many districts turn to raising funds from the community to keep pay the bills.
These tax levies, which expire after four years, help fill in the gaps in state and federal funding as well as pay for everything from district support staff to band and athletic equipment.
In Kent’s case, the two levies voters will decide on could be placed on the Feb. 11 ballot, will pay for technology purchases and maintenance as well as district program maintenance.
Kent School District officials have not released figures on the cost of new levies, district spokesman Chris Loftis said. District staff will look into how much will be needed to raise with each levy.
According to Loftis, the technology levy will yield the most visible results for the district.
“The technology levy will pay for devices in schools, things that students use every day,” Loftis said. “When people pay for those things through their taxes, they see something really tangible.”
Loftis explained the operations levy is equally important even though it may not be as visible.
More than 20 percent of the district’s annual budget comes from the levies which means it is important for residents to continue to support them when they vote, Loftis explained.
“If we lose 22 percent of our maintenance and operations funding, that’s catastrophic to the educational experience,” Loftis said.
The district’s Board of Directors will meet for a workshop Oct. 30 and then finalize the proposal at its Nov. 14 meeting.
Kent voters passed both levies in 2010. The operations levy was intended to collect $56 million in 2010 and increase by about $3 million per year, ending at $64 million in 2013. The technology levy was set at $5 million per year for four years and the district estimated in 2010 it would carry a tax rate of between 26 cents and 28 cents per $1,000 assessed home value.
“Every school district out there is aware of a strong lower tax or no tax or anti-tax sentiment, but that’s what the elections are for,” Loftis said.
In the meantime, former school board member and Kent Councilman Bill Boyce and Jim Berrios are coordinating campaigning efforts with residents.
Berrios points to the district’s achievements in the past decade as a reason to continue levy funding. It has received 10 technology awards and 30 academic achievement awards in the past three years. These awards were capped each year with a financial transparency award from the Association of School Business Officials.
“The district is maximizing what they’re doing with those bond and levy dollars,” Berrios said.
For those who want to volunteer, they can sign up here to volunteer for phone banks and doorbelling.