Voters approved a Peninsula School District Educational Programs and Operations levy Feb. 11 to replace a levy that will expire at the end of 2020.
The final tally was 21,054 votes cast with 61.7 percent in favor, according to the Pierce County Auditor.
“A weight has been lifted,” said PSD board member and KP resident Chuck West. “This levy was not about adding anything but just a continuation of programs that we currently offer, so that was quite a relief.”
Almost every precinct on the KP and in Gig Harbor voted for approval, sometimes by a large margin though in one case by just a single vote. Only one area rejected it and did so by four votes: precinct 26-314, located in the Lake Holiday – Lake of the Woods area of the KP.
“Property taxes have gone up; property values have gone up. There were a lot of other voter-approved initiatives,” West said. “Property taxes are up 8 percent on the KP but we didn’t see the dramatic increases a lot of other areas have.”
There was little organized opposition to the levy but local social media groups were alive with debates about teacher salaries and complaints about waste.
The replacement levy has an assessment level of $1.50 per $1,000 of property value and is expected to raise $80 million over its three-year lifespan. The levy is for a fixed dollar amount and PSD cannot collect more money if property values increase.
In the wake of the state Supreme Court McCleary Decision of 2012 concerning Washington’s inadequate role in school funding, the Legislature changed how local taxes can be levied. Districts now collect the lesser of either $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value or $2,500 per student. PSD uses $2,500 per student, which it estimates to be $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value.
The Legislature only funds basic education, which is 82 percent of PSD’s budget. The replacement levy will fund the remaining 18 percent, according to PSD, for programs and resources including athletics, music, art, extra-curricular activities, nurses, counselors, safety and security personnel, professional development for staff, special education, AP classes, and maintenance and repairs.
All told, Washington state spends an average of $11,989 per student, below the national average of $12,201, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. There are approximately 9,400 students in the district.