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Supporters mount campaign for Kent School District levy
Another year, another time for taxpayers to decide whether or not to renew the Kent School District levy.
A handful of teachers, officials, community leaders and Kent residents gathered at the Kentridge library on Oct. 17 to launch an official campaign for the district's proposed levy.
"Someday we may be fully funded with state and federal dollars, but until that day we'll need local money," said Kent Educators Association president Cindy Prescott.
Until higher governments can better support education programs in schools, many districts turn to raising funds from the community to keep extracurricular activities afloat.
These tax levies, which run for four school years, help fill in the gaps in state and federal funding and pay for everything from district support staff to band and athletic equipment.
In Kent's case, the two levies voters will decide on Feb. 11 will pay for technology purchases and maintenance as well as district program maintenance.
The school district hasn't released any hard figures on the new levies, said district information officer Chris Loftis. They'll look into how much they'll need to raise with each levy, and where it will come from — usually an increase in property taxes, Loftis said.
According to Loftis, the technology levy will yield the most visible results for the district.
"The technology levy will pay for devices in schools, things that students use every day. When people pay for those things through their taxes they see something really tangible."
But Loftis is careful to not discount the importance of the maintenance and operations levy, which will support many sustainment efforts, such as the district's lunch program.
Should the levies not be passed, the district will be forced to cut 22 percent of its programs and staff, leading to severe changes for Kent schools in cuts that Loftis describes as "draconian."
"If we lose 22 percent of our maintenance and operations funding, that's catastrophic to the educational experience."
The school board will meet for the workshop on Oct. 30, and then finalize the proposal at its Nov. 14 meeting.
In the meantime, Bill Boyce and City Council candidate Jim Berrios are coordinating campaigning efforts with residents. Berrios points to the district's achievements in the last decade as a reason to continue levy funding. It has received 10 technology awards and 30 academic achievement awards in the past three years. These awards have been capped each year with a financial transparency award from the Association of School Business Officials.
"My point that I'm trying to express here is that the district is maximizing what they're doing with those bond and levy dollars," Berrios said.
For those who want to volunteer, they can sign up at citizensforkentschools.com to volunteer for phone banks and door belling.
While levies tend to stir up debate between those who support public education and those against higher taxes, no one from the opposition camp has raised their voices regarding the idea.
Loftis is confident that they'll become more vocal as the months progress.
"Every school district out there is aware of a strong lower tax or no tax or anti-tax sentiment," he said, "but that's what the elections are for."