Peninsula school measures failing in early returns

A pair of Peninsula School District ballot propositions to build and upgrade elementary and middle schools appeared headed for failure in early election returns Tuesday.

Proposition 1, a 20-year, $60-million measure, was running far short of the 60 percent threshold needed to pass a bond measure. Proposition 2, a 5-year, $55.9 million measure, was closer to reaching the 50 percent “yes” vote needed for a capital levy to pass, but its chances also looked dim.

Leaders of the yes campaign had urged voters to “say yes twice” to the dual bond-levy package, but on Tuesday night they seemed resigned to that not happening.

Brian Bergren, co-chairman of Citizens for Peninsula Schools, said he was disappointed with early results and thinks the community should make education a higher priority.

“While everyone is tightening their belts, we cannot leave the children behind and we cannot let our community fall into despair,” Bergren said.

He said there appears to be little chance for the bond, but he hopes the uncounted votes for Proposition 2 will be enough to boost it toward passing.

Gig Harbor area voters previously rejected a $50 million capital levy for schools last November.

The last time they approved capital investments in schools was 2003 and, before that, 1989.

Proposition 1 would have built a new elementary school, torn down and replaced Artondale Elementary School, upgraded and strengthened security throughout the district, replaced playfields, modernized Key Peninsula Middle School and upgraded middle school science rooms.

Property owners within Peninsula School District boundaries would have seen an increased property tax of 92 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The owner of a $300,000 home would have paid an additional $276 in annual property taxes.

Proposition 2 would accomplish some of the same goals: Buy a new school, replace Artondale, upgrade playfields and school security. It also would provide $2 million to put more computers in classrooms.

The levy would raise property tax rates $1.19 per $1,000 of assessed value for 5 years. The owner of a $300,000 home would have paid an additional $357 annually.

Jerry Gibbs, who campaigned against Proposition 2 said people disagreed with tearing down and rebuilding Artondale – a $25 million portion of the plan.

The “No” campaign was concerned about tax increases for people who are on their last leg of tax generosity. Gibbs said he supports the schools, but would prefer a plan with a lower price tag.

“They still have a lot more votes to count,” he said. “We’re not admitting victory or defeat, but the initial count shows voters would like to see a different plan.”

Randy Boss, who opposed both propositions, dubbed them a “bad plan.”

“Hopefully people are smart enough to not impose an additional tax increase on themselves over a plan that doesn’t really make sense,” he said Tuesday night, not ready to declare victory.

The two proposals, while voted on separately, were designed to pass together. If they had, the full cost of the second measure would not have been imposed.

If passed together, property taxes for 2015 would have increased by 96 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The owner of a $300,000 house would have paid an additional $288 in property taxes.

School leaders floated the bond to give them more flexibility to work on long-term projects simultaneously.