The Kent School District plans to put a three-year, $97.8 million levy proposal on the Nov. 5 general election ballot. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent School District

The Kent School District plans to put a three-year, $97.8 million levy proposal on the Nov. 5 general election ballot. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent School District

Kent School District proposes smaller levy for critical projects

Effort to get voter approval after three consecutive measures fail

After three consecutive ballot measure failures, Kent School District leaders plan a less-filling proposal to voters that they hope looks great.

Voters turned down an $493 million bond in April 2023, $219 million capital project and technology levy in November 2023 and a similar $190.2 million levy last April.

Now district leaders plan to put a three-year, levy-lite measure of $97.8 million on the Nov. 5 general election ballot, a reduction of $92.4 million or 49% from the previous two measures. An estimated $73.35 million would go towards capital projects and $24.45 million to technology projects.

“We are responding to voters, and the failing bond and levies,” Deputy Superintendent Wade Barringer said during a June 26 Kent School Board workshop. “We went back to the drawing board. …we are focusing on critical and emergent needs only.”

The bond measure in April 2023 received only 48.02% in favor (60% approval was needed); the November 2023 levy received 48.87% in favor; and the April levy just 43.30% in favor, with 50% plus one approval needed for levies.

“They have spoken fairly loudly about the impact of taxes,” Barringer said.

Barringer said a district survey of voters showed they didn’t want to pay higher taxes.

“We’ve heard from a lot of people that $190 million was a huge impact to taxpayers, who have seen an increase in property taxes,” Barringer said. “With increasing tax bills, they saw the amount of the levy as being too big.”

The board is expected vote on the levy proposal Wednesday, July 10, to put the measure on the Nov. 5 ballot. A public hearing on the levy will be held prior to the vote during the 6:30 p.m. meeting at the Boardroom of the Administration Center, 12033 SE 256th St.

Voter surveys also indicated they want more specifics about projects, which schools will get repairs or replacements rather than a general statement about replacing boilers, roofs, etc.

According to district documents, an estimated $22.9 million will go for new roofs at Kent-Meridian and Kentlake high schools; Park Orchard, Fairwood, Meadow Ridge and Millenium elementary schools; and Mattson Middle School. Most of the roofs are from the 1990s.

A total of $18 million will be used for new synthetic turf athletic fields at Mill Creek Middle School and Kentridge High School, according to district documents. Mill Creek and Kentridge grass fields become unusable after heavy rains. The district has applied for an estimated $20 million federal grant to help pay for flood control projects at Mill Creek, and the new field would only be if it receives the grant.

Another major project would be about $5.6 million for the Transportation Fueling Center for buses. The in-ground fuel tanks need to be replaced and the new design would be above ground tanks.

A total of $8.6 million is needed for boiler replacements at Kent-Meridian and Kentlake high schools, Mill Creek Middle School, Fairwood Elementary, Kent Valley Early Learning Center and the Central Kitchen.

As for the technology portion of the levy, about 39% would pay for district devices, including middle and high school students to continue to have a laptop computer. Replacements would be spread out over the three-year levy. Replacements for elementary student computers would be pushed out to 2028. The district plans to save money by using the computers longer.

If the levy is approved, property tax rates for the measure would be $0.72 (72 cents) per $1,000 assessed property value in 2025; $0.70 in 2026; and $0.68 in 2027. The measure would bring in about $32 million per year.

Combined with the voter-approved district operational levy in November 2023, the property tax rate would be $2.92 in 2025, costing the owner of a $600,000 home about $1,751 per year compared to $2,120 in 2023 with a rate of $3.53 per $1,000 assessed value.

The district will host a community Zoom meeting about the levy at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 9. The district also had a meeting July 1.

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