Peninsula district lists ways to fund future

After a levy defeat in November, the district listened to ideas for reducing costs; now it's looking at options

Staff writerJanuary 12, 2014 

Leaders in the Peninsula School District plan to present a list of options for financing future construction, technology improvements and other capital needs at a series of public meetings this week.

The move comes following the November defeat of a four-year, $50 million capital levy. That levy would have financed construction of a new school in the Gig Harbor North area to relieve pressure on an over-capacity Purdy Elementary School. The levy also would have paid to replace Artondale Elementary School. It would have financed technology enhancements districtwide and athletic field improvements at both of the district's comprehensive high schools.

A vocal opposition movement argued that the district had failed to consider less-costly options, such as shifting school attendance boundaries. They also said the levy would have meant too large of a tax increase.

Now, school officials and board members are trying to take those arguments into consideration as they craft proposals that could come before voters as early as April.

At a board meeting last week, board members wrestled with several options and asked Superintendent Chuck Cuzzetto to come up with a blended model.

Options include:

  • A four-year capital levy that would raise $52.5 million. It would include the same projects in the failed November levy, but at a slightly increased cost due to inflation. The four-year levy's estimated rates per thousand dollars of assessed property value would be $1.46 in 2015, $1.43 in 2016, $1.40 in 2017 and $1.37 in 2018. (This and other scenarios assume increases in property values over time that lower rates per thousand.)
  • A four-year capital levy that would raise $43.1 million. The projects would be the same with one exception: renovation, rather than replacement, of Artondale. This would save $9.4 million. Rates per thousand would be $1.20 in 2015, $1.17 in 2016, $1.15 in 2017 and $1.13 in 2018.
  • A five-year capital levy that would include the same projects as the four-year package, but also provide $3.4 million for improvements at Key Peninsula Middle School. They include work that would upgrade the school's water systems for fire safety and some classroom improvements. If the five-year package includes a renovated Artondale, it would total $46.5 million. Rates per thousand for this levy would start at $1.03 in 2015, gradually moving to 95 cents in 2019. If it includes a new Artondale, the five-year levy would raise $55.9 million, with rates per thousand starting at $1.24, moving to $1.15 in 2019.
  • A combination of a two-year levy to pay for technology upgrades and a longer-term bond to finance other capital projects. The proposed two-year levy would raise $5 million each year. The bond could be financed over 20 or more years. Cuzzetto said Friday that he is working with the district's bond consultants to come up with a total bond amount and projected tax rates for this combined scenario. He said he hopes to have those figures available for this week's meetings with the public.

Opponents of the November ballot measure presented the School Board with results of a survey they conducted after the levy defeat. They also included suggestions for ways they believe the district can address overcrowding.

They urge an independent study to determine whether new apartments and homes in Gig Harbor North will bring more retirees, instead of the families with children that the district has included in its assumptions of the need for a new school in the area. They urged the district to pay for major capital needs with bonds rather than short-term levies, as well as shorter-term bonds to reduce interest paid.

The district is in the process of forming a committee to study redrawing attendance boundaries as one way to deal with schools that are now at or over capacity.

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635

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