Key Peninsula residents are starting to show up en masse for school levy and redistricting presentations. It was elbow to elbow at the meeting room at the Key Center Library on Jan. 14.
An impending overcrowding condition affects all eight elementary schools district wide, on both the Key and Gig Harbor peninsulas.
There are 1,000 new housing units being constructed in the Gig Harbor North area, with more construction forecast. Some of these homes are already being occupied. The impact will be felt by the September school start.
“The elementary schools on the Gig Harbor Peninsula are already over their capacity limit,” said Chuck Cuzzetto, Peninsula School District superintendent. “Starting in September, we will be unable to avoid re-districting, and will need to start bussing students from the Gig Harbor Peninsula to the Key Peninsula where some capacity is still available.”
“Re-districting” is where the boundary lines for each school are redrawn and students are shifted from one school to another.
The school levy vote in November failed. It would have provided funds to construct a new elementary school in the Gig Harbor North area.
In 2012, the Washington Supreme Court found that the State Legislature has not met its constitutional mandate to fully fund education, and is getting impatient with the Legislature in not fixing the problem, as ordered by the Court. Records say the Supreme Court issued a follow-up order on Jan. 9, stating that “The Court is troubled by the lack of progress in funding basic costs for schools as well as pay for educators and administrators.”
State Rep. Larry Seaquist, who chairs the House Higher Education Committee, said that “The Legislators are nervous about what action the Supreme Court may take. I expect some significant action during the session just starting.”
Peninsula School District has no other funding source besides a property tax levy. It must again place a levy before the voters for more funding.
At the Jan. 14 meeting, five levy options were presented, all variations of the levy proposed in November, with property tax assessments varying from .88cents to $1.46 per $1,000 evaluation. For a $250,000 home, these rates would equate to an additional tax payment of between $220 and $365 per year.
Audience opinions were electronically tallied. Selecting between the five options presented, 45 percent of the audience chose the levy option with an assessment of $1.20 per $1,000 evaluation ($300 per year additional tax).
For comparison, the failed November levy would have resulted in $350 per year in additional property tax.
Choosing between five different dates for when the levy should be placed on the ballot, 54 percent of the audience chose November 2014.
The school board will solicit more public input, and will study the issues involved further before any decision is made.
Regardless of whether voters pass a levy or not, the overcrowding and re-districting issues remain.
“Fifty individuals have requested to be on the re-districting committee, which will study all relevant factors and make recommendations to the school board,” Cuzzetto said. “Only a few individuals from the Key Peninsula have expressed an interest in joining the committee. We really need more involvement from the KP, as all three of their elementary schools will be affected greatly by the re-districting.”
The school board may appoint members to the Re-districting Committee at its Jan. 23 board meeting. If a KP resident wants to join, even after Jan. 23, contact Cozzetto by email through the school website at PSD401.net.