Northwest NEWS

November 26, 2001

School

Northshore proposes 3 school measures for Feb. 5 ballot

by Jeanette Knutson
   Staff Writer
   Karen Orsinger is a longtime active participant in the Northshore School District. She is co-chair of the Citizens for Northshore Schools levy committee, whose task is to promote three school finance measures that will appear on the Feb. 5 Special Election ballot.
   Orsinger said there is a certain mutual advantage that schools and communities share.
   "Strong school districts promote strong communities. It's important to provide our children with the best education possible ... for their future as well as ours."
   State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Terry Bergeson recently said much the same thing in her annual State of Education speech. "The schools that succeed benefit the communities at large. And when schools succeed, it's because the community supported them."
   Northshore School District is a case in point. It has, as Superintendent Dr. Karen Forys pointed out, "strong parent and community support." Its mission, in fact, is "to strengthen (the) community through excellence in education."
   Community support, according to Forys, has helped bring to the district "an enviable reputation for excellent schools." She said, "Among Washington state districts, we are considered one of the leaders - in academic achievement (and) the use of technology as a learning tool ... ."
   Here are some facts gathered to help readers understand February's Northshore School District ballot measures, crafted, in part, to continue the district's tradition of excellence.
   How big is Northshore School District?
   Northshore is the 10th largest school district in the state. It covers 60 square miles, two-thirds in King County, one-third in Snohomish County. The district population is approximately 120,000. There are 20 elementary schools, six junior highs and three high schools, with close to 20,000 students and roughly 2,300 full- and part-time employees.
   If I didn't vote in the last election, can I vote in the February election?
   Absolutely. According to Julie Anne Kempf, superintendent of King County Elections, "A person does not lose their voter registration simply because they haven't voted in several elections. If they move, don't notify us, we receive two pieces of mail returned to us, they go on inactive status. Once they're on inactive status, if they miss two federal elections - so essentially 25 months' worth of voting - then they're cancelled; but for persons living in the same place, it's their constitutional right not to vote as well as it is to vote."
   What are the three school finance measures that Northshore is submitting to voters in February?
   The district is submitting a four-year, $132 million maintenance-and-operation (M&O) levy that will allow the school district to hold the line on class sizes and maintain instruction and curriculum. A four-year, $14 million technology levy will allow the district to continue its commitment to technology in the classroom, and a 20-year, $98 million construction bond issue will ensure necessary school renovations and improvements.
   What is a Maintenance and Operations Levy?
   In Northshore the M&O levy - which accounts for more than 20 percent of the district's general budget - is used to help pay for such items as teaching and instructional support, extra curricular activities, facilities operation, and transportation not funded by the state.
   A similar levy is set to expire in 2002. The proposed M&O levy, then, is a replacement levy. But the district is requesting less for this levy than it did in the 1998 election.
   The Maintenance and Operation (M&O) Levy is designed to collect $29.5 million in 2003 at an estimated rate of $2.51 per $1,000 of assessed valuation; $35.1 million in 2004 at an estimated $2.59 per $1,000; $34.5 million in 2005 at an estimated $2.74 per $1,000; and $36.5 million in 2006 at an estimated $2.80 per $1,000.
   Why do we need the M&O levy given that Initiative 728 passed?
   I-728 funds provide less than 3 percent of the district's total budget. Also, there are many restrictions on the use of these funds.
   Why is a Technology Levy needed?
   This levy is needed to augment Northshore's long-range technology plan, designed to keep students apace with an increasingly competitive global economy. These funds would provide and maintain computer workstations in the classroom, provide telecommunications support, increase network capabilities, and provide basic and specialized technology for traditional and special needs students.
   The technology levy is also a four-year replacement levy. It would assess $3.5 million in each year, amounting to an estimated $0.30 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2003; $0.29 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2004; $0.28 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2005; and $0.27 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2006.
   Why does the district need additional funds for capital improvements?
   Facilities age. With funds from a 20-year bond issue, the district would modernize existing classrooms, expand existing facilities, improve fields, renovate older schools, acquire sites, upgrade technology and comply with new codes and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
   While the bonds would be payable over the next 20 years, Northshore often is able to pay off bonds sooner because of refinancing opportunities during the payback period. Northshore School District is among a select few districts in the state that enjoy a rating of "Aa3" from Moody's Investors Service and "AA-" from Standard & Poor's. As a result, the district is able to sell its bonds at more favorable rates, which translate into lower local taxes.
   The capital projects bond would cost taxpayers an estimated $2.36 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2003; $2.29 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2004; $2.15 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2005; and $2.10 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2006.
   If I support these measures, will my property taxes go up?
   If approved, Northshore taxpayers would pay an estimated $5.17 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. This $5.17 is lower than the $5.98 rate approved by voters in 1998 for collection in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002.
   Is there a tax break for senior or disabled citizens?
   Senior citizens may qualify for tax exemption from special levies. Exemptions may also be granted to those retired from regular gainful employment by reason of physical disability. Contact the assessor's office for more details. In King County the number is (206) 296-3920; in Snohomish County call (425) 388-3540.
   How can I find out more about the levies and bond issue?
   Citizens for Northshore Schools has organized a speakers' bureau that will visit community organizations to speak about these ballot measures. They'd be happy to address groups between five and 100 or more. To arrange for a speaker to visit your organization, call Karen Orsinger at (425) 483-9789 or Janice Bogusz at (425) 486-0245. For general information, call Pamela Steele at (425) 489-6399 or visit www.nsd.org.