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Kent School District levies up for renewal

Concerned that the initial dollar amount for a pair of levies proposed for the Feb. 11 ballot, members of the Kent School District Board of Directors approved putting the measures to voters with a request for a higher rate.

Further review of the proposed levies — an operations levy as well as one to cover technology costs — along with additional community input led to the change that the board voted on at its Dec. 11 meeting. It approved the levy amounts of $269 million in November. Both levies are up for renewal as they expire after four years.

The board considered another scenario which would have put  $282 million in levies on the ballot but chose to go with the higher amount proposed in what was called Resolution 1430, which will ask for about $307 million for the operations and technology levies. Taxes will be collected over four years, with an increase for the average homeowner in the district of $246 per year, according to district documents.

“While our board is charged with reviewing the complexities of public school operations and then making informed decisions that represent the best interests of our students and schools, community engagement and feedback is an instrumental part of our democratic process,” said Board President Debbie Straus. “In this case, we have heard the public demanding the highest quality schools affordable. We feel this proposition is the proper response to that demand.”

Like many districts in Washington state, Kent has put levies to voters on a regular basis — in this case, every four years — to bridge the gap left after it receives funding from the state and federal governments. These funds will pay for resources the district needs, as well as re-instituting programs which were lost due to budget cuts following the recession as well as the federal government sequestration. State education funding has gradually shrunk over the past decade, and now accounts for 66 percent of the district’s budget.

For example, according to information provided by Citizens for Kent Schools on its website, the operations levy covers costs of supplies, services and the salaries of about 20 percent of district employees.

Money generated by the technology levy pays for the costs of maintaining tools district staff and students use as well as ensure technology platforms used across the district remain secure, according to the CKS website. It also covers the cost of replacing computers used by students and teachers. At this time all students in sixth through 11th grade are issued laptops at the start of the school year as the district progresses to a one to one technology model.

In 2010, both levies were approved with about 54 percent of the vote, with the combined cost totaling about $240 million. It did not include new taxes at the time but was a continuation of taxes from levies approved in 2006.

Because state law prevents the district from campaigning on behalf of levies or construction bond measures, the CKS committee handles that.

The next CKS meeting is set for 7:30 a.m. Saturday at the Golden Steer in Kent while a campaign rally is planned for 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, at Kent-Meridian High.

Voters can expect to see their ballots hit their mailboxes Jan. 20.

More information on the levy can be found both on the Kent School District website at www.kent.k12.wa.us/domain/775 as well as the Citizens for Kent Schools website, www.citizensforkentschools.org/.

Kent Reporter staff writer Ross Coyle contributed to this report.

 

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