Kent School District Superintendent Israel Vela. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent School District

Kent School District Superintendent Israel Vela. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent School District

Kent School District voters could face another levy in November

Superintendent Israel Vela reveals proposal to Kent School Board for less expensive measure

Kent School District voters might be asked on the Nov. 5 general election ballot to approve a capital levy measure.

Voters have turned down three consecutive capital funding measures, but Superintendent Israel Vela said during his June 12 report to the Kent School Board that it’s time to try again.

“Instead of being discouraged by the results, we are approaching this issue with courage and determination and an eye toward the future and not the past,” Vela said.

Vela said through surveys and dialogue with voters about their lack of support for the measures, district staff determined three main concerns:

• Increasing tax bills

• Amount of the levy request too large

• A perceived lack of details about the project list and whether those projects are truly necessary

“Clearly, a fundamentally different approach is warranted,” Vela said.

Vela proposes that the five-member board approve sending to voters a three-year levy aimed at the most critical needs and roughly 50% lower than the $190.2 million measure voters rejected in April with 56.7% against and just 43.3% in favor.

“While this reduction impacts what we can do for students, it sends a clear message to our community that we understand and are responding to the recent results,” Vela said.

According to staff and a public notice, specifics of the proposal will be released on the district’s website prior to a public hearing for resident input at the board’s June 26 meeting. That hearing is at 6:30 p.m. in the district’s board room, 12033 SE 256th St. A public hearing for the proposed 2024-2025 district budget also will be on the agenda.

Board member Donald Cook in an email to Vela and the board this week suggested a work session for the board about the levy proposal prior to the public hearing and the board’s vote on the proposal. As of Tuesday morning, June 18, no work session had been scheduled.

If the levy proposal to send to voters is approved by the board, it will be the fourth try to get voter support for capital projects.

Besides the April levy defeat, voters turned down basically the same proposal in November 2023 with 52% against and 48.8% in favor. The measure over the next three years (2025 to 2027) would have paid for health and safety upgrades at buildings, facility equipment replacements and improvements and technology education (laptops for each student).

District leaders put the two levies on the ballots after voters 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. Levies need 50% plus one vote approval.

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.

While voters have defeated capital project measures over the last year, they approved in November 2023 the district’s 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. The state funds most of the rest of the district’s operating budget for basic education.

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