Members of the Kent Education Association (teachers’ union) rally for the Kent School District measure on the April 23 ballot. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent Education Association

Members of the Kent Education Association (teachers’ union) rally for the Kent School District measure on the April 23 ballot. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent Education Association

Kent School District seeks approval of $190 million levy

Approval of measure on April 23 ballot would pay for capital projects and technology

Voters in the Kent School District will decide whether to approve an $190.2 million Capital Projects and Technology Levy on the April 23 ballot.

King County Elections will mail ballots April 3. Returned ballots must be postmarked by April 23 or returned by 8 p.m. that day to a ballot drop box.

The levy would provide a majority of funding over the next three years (2025 to 2027) for health and safety, replacements and improvements and technology education, according to the district.

Voters turned down a similar measure in November 2023 with 48.87% in favor, with 50% needed for passage. Voters also rejected a $495 million bond in April 2023 to upgrade schools with 48% in favor while 60% approval was needed because it was a bond measure.

The projects are close to the same as the November measure because those are still the highest priority needs based on professional assessments of Kent School District facilities, according to the district.

The Kent School Board voted 5-0 to put the measure on the ballot. Board member Andy Song said he supports the levy.

“When you look at the greater perspective, with educational improvement we help society grow educationally and help kids and families improve multiple aspects of their lives,” Song said at the February meeting.

Board member Tim Clark said state support doesn’t cover these items, but the upgrades are needed, such as the laptop program that “puts a computer in the hands of every kid.”

Voters barely approved a six-year Capital Projects and Technology Levy in 2018 with 50.02% in favor to bring in about $146 million over six years. That measure is expiring after bringing in $29 million for 2024.

“It’s a replacement levy and we need it,” Clark said.

District residents Joseph Riley and Shaw Bettinger wrote a statement against the levy on the King County Elections website.

“Half-truths, empty promises, and zero accountability,” Riley and Bettinger wrote. “After a bond and levy failure, two community feedback surveys, and numerous presentations, there is virtually no difference between this levy and the previously failed attempts: same tax amount, same projects, no changes to transparency or accountability.”

Riley and Bettinger said this levy brings in about $60 million per year compared to $30 million per year under the expiring levy approved six years ago.

Kent Mayor Dana Ralph, Covington Mayor Jeff Wagner and Kent City Councilmember Bill Boyce wrote a statement in favor of the measure on the elections website and responded to the opposition statement.

“The district did not ignore the community feedback,” according to the statement. “Since the bond failure, the district has amended the project list, and reduced the overall tax proposal by over $5 million for 2025 and 2026.”

If passed, the levy would fund:

Health and safety

• Healthy air ventilation and cooling systems.

• Upgrade alarm systems, including intruder alarms and fire alarms; some current alarms are over 20 years old.

• Accessible and inclusive playground equipment at elementary schools.

• School entrance additions for access control to provide security.

Replacements and improvements

• Boiler replacements; some boilers are original to the school building, and some are over 20 years old.

• New flooring – replace old, outdated, and heavy traffic-area flooring. Some current flooring is over 20 years old.

• Transportation fueling center – to address new code compliance.

• Fridge/freezer emergency power at central kitchen to preserve food during a power outage.

• Mill Creek Middle School synthetic field and track as well as high school synthetic fields.

Access to technology

• District devices for all students and staff; includes 1:1 tablets/laptops for each student. These are devices that allow digital textbooks for students, which can reduce backpack load and provide digital accessibility and learning tools.

• Document camera replacement – the current document camera system, known as ELMO, is over 10 years old.

• Classroom display refresh – staff and students have access to interactive panels and touch screen devices where they can draw and write directly on the panel screen.

Internet connectivity for students at home to complete homework.

Teaching and learning tools

• Complete Microsoft platform – includes Outlook (district email system), Office 365 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), Teams – online meetings, video, chat, project management, Microsoft security suite.

• Skyward – student information system. Families can access grades, email a teacher, find their student’s report card, report an absence, and much more. This system is the core of student information management.

• Canvas – student learning management system: course materials, communication tools, participation and grades; used for day-to-day delivery of instruction to students.

Modernize infrastructure

• Phone system updates.

• Classroom voice amplification system so that all students can hear the teacher

• Intercom systems – 50% of our schools’ intercom systems are either failing or components of the system are failing. The intercom system provides communication of information to students and staff in the school building, including safety situations.

• Update disaster recovery system for ransomware protection.

• Update infrastructure capable of connecting devices faster and more securely.

Teachers, staff development

• Project-based learning training: provide engagement with real-world applications.

• Innovative leaders cohort: extra service time for educators.

• AI training: stay abreast of AI advancements and best practices.

• Digital & media literacy training: equip educators for responsible digital navigation.

Costs to property owners

If the levy passes, the average homeowner is expected to see an increase in their tax bill in years two and three of the levy of about $100, according to the district. The levy would account for about 1/3 of that increase (about $34). The year one increase would be more substantial because of the previous levy failures, with a higher cost of about $384.

• Levy year 2025, rate per $1,000 (assessed property value) is $1.36, levy amount is $60.9 million

• Levy year 2026, rate per $1,000 is $1.36, levy amount is $63.4 million

• Levy year 2027, rate per $1,000 is $1.36, levy amount is $65.9 million

It is important to note the district levies a dollar amount, not a rate, according to the district. So if your property values increase or decrease, the amount the district can collect remains the same.

Voters approved in November 2023 the Replacement of Expiring Educational Programs and Operations Levy, which covers about 15% of the general fund, including monies for athletics, music and arts, which are not funded by the state. The levy also funds special education, advanced learning programs and multilingual education.

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