Because the state Legislature still has not fully funded education, as it is required by law to do, Key Peninsula voters will be asked on Feb. 9 to approve yet another school levy, according to Karen Andersen, key financial officer for Peninsula School District.
“We call it the Educational Programs and Operations Levy,”Andersen said. “Like our regular budget, our levy is about people. It pays for teachers, but it also pays for a significant portion of our classified staff –– paraeducators, office managers, tech assistants, janitors and so forth.”
Because the state isn’t fully funding education, all school districts in the state have a strong dependence on levy funds, Anderson said.
“We’d have to make cuts if we didn’t have the levy funding. So until the state funds education 100 percent we need these funds to help make us whole,”she said.
“The important thing is that this (levy) is 24 percent of our operating budget and 75 percent of it goes to staffing,” she added.
“This year we received funding for all-day kindergarten on the Key Peninsula –– but we went all-day kindergarten across the district. So that’s more staffing that’s needed in our schools.
“If we took 24 percent of our teachers out of our classrooms, we’d have larger class sizes and we wouldn’t have as many electives.
“If we took half of our custodians out of our schools, we’d have half as many custodians. In past times when the levy didn’t pass, teachers had to clean their own rooms because we only had custodians coming in once a week,”she said.
The current levy also helps maintain things like the technology department. Currently the district is “trying to put computer devices into the hands of every student –– especially on the KP,”she said.
The Feb. 9 levy “isn’t asking for anything new. We’re asking for the current rate to be continued. Currently it’s $2.30. For 2017 we drove those dollars down and we’re asking for $2.19 per $1,000 assessed value,”Anderson said.
Any additional dollars built into the levy would go for priority things like security needs and routine maintenance needs like roof repair, she said.
“We’re trying to beef those up a little bit. We’re also trying to reduce class sizes especially in our core classes like math and English. And we want to continue to do good things like put devices in students’hands and have a rotation on that.”
When it comes to state funding, the future is unknown. “We just don’t know what’s going to happen with state funding. The goal is that we build a levy that says ‘Hey, if the state comes through and they fully fund education, every year we’re going to look and see if we truly need all the dollars we’re asking for through the levy.’If the state starts to fund, we won’t need as much and then it can be truly for extra things,” Andersen said.
Peninsula School District personnel will hold four public forums in January including two on the Key Peninsula. Locally, forums will take place Jan. 12, 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the Key Peninsula Middle School library and Jan. 14, 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the Key Center library.
At each forum district members will present key information about the upcoming levy followed by a question and answer period.
For information, visit the 2016 levy page on the district’s website at psd401.net.