Please Support Both BI School Levies

You should already have your ballot for the Feb. 9 special election. There are two levies from the Bainbridge Island School District on it.

You have already been paying on the Enrichment and Operations Levy and the Technology Levy but they expire this year. Voting in favor of the levies would basically renew what you’ve been paying. The last time these levies ran the community supported them with an impressive 73 percent yes vote.

BI gets such great support because of the excellent reputation of its schools. One of the major reasons many people live here is the school system. This is a well-educated community that understands the importance of a quality education – even if they don’t have kids in school.

After the state Supreme Court’s historic McCleary decision, the state has increased its funding, but has set limits on what school districts can charge.

Even if both measures pass, the district still will need to reduce some staff and programs due to declining enrollment caused by COVID-19. The district lost 200 students this year, as some parents decided on home-schooling and others private schools with in-person learning. However, a high percentage have said they plan to come back once BISD returns to normal, which would increase state funding.

Thanks to increased valuation on the island, overall tax rates for local schools actually only will go up from $2.61 in 2021 to $2.65 in 2022, in costs per $1,000. That’s $2,120 a year on an $800,000 home. That’s about $30 more than what the average homeowner pays now for local school taxes.

Cost is $1.04 for the enrichment levy and 26 cents for the tech levy. Already approved are $1.09 for a bond levy and 26 cents for the capital levy. All costs are per $1,000 valuation. To compare, that’s more than double what’s paid in North Kitsap, but about $800 less than what’s paid in Issaquah.

These levies pay for things state school taxes don’t. The state provides for 75 percent of the district’s more than $57.5 million general fund, while 18 percent is provided by local levies.

The district also uses these funds to provide 4.87 nurses, 3.85 psychologists, 11.1 counselors and one social worker. The state only funds .77 nurse, .32 psychologist, 7.85 counselor and .41 social worker. Those provide emotional health for students, something that is so important, especially during the trying times of the coronavirus.

The Tech Levy has been $2.2 million since 2014, but the district is seeking an increase of $300,000 to $2.5 million. The reasons: increased costs of goods and services; Staff wage and benefit increases; and a new hire to focus on instructional technology. The tech levy is important because employers and higher education expect students to be more tech savvy, and technology creates jobs that didn’t exist before.

The enrichment levy pays for things such as: Teachers and support staff; Special Education, along with remedial reading and math programs, and paraeducators; Enrichment for students, such as art, music, STEM and electives; Instructional materials such as books, subscriptions and consumables; Extracurricular activities such as athletics and clubs; and Districtwide support for maintenance, custodial, student transportation and central office.

The tech levy pays for: Student devices used at home and school, such as Chromebooks; Classroom presentation equipment; Distance learning tech and services; Assistive tech for students; Operational tech, such as networking, data backup, etc.; Software for library services and supporting educational electronic content; Cyber-security and cyber-safety; and Tech professional development.

Both need 50 percent plus one approval to pass.

Opinion Page, Bainbridge Island Review