This past February, the Central Kitsap School District (CKSD) sponsored a special election to put in place a new levy to replace its rolling two-year temporary levy, which expires this year. This levy costs taxpayers around $20 million per year and is described by CKSD as funding student enrichment: primarily arts, athletics, and clubs (outside the school day). These funds are not used to support the school district’s basic education mission, which is fully funded, mostly by local property taxes and an allocation of state funding.
In the February election, the measure failed with 7,727 votes against versus 7,297 votes for, with only 33.2% of registered voters returning their ballots. Irrespective of the outcome in this special election, or in other special elections sponsored by Kitsap school districts or any of the 40 other taxing districts within the county, they share one prominent feature: low voter participation.
Low voter participation in off-cycle elections is one of the more common critiques of special elections. Voter/taxpayer interest in these off-cycle elections is routinely far below even-year November elections, with turnout in those elections ranging from 60% to 85%. For this reason, off-cycle elections are perceived by some as special interest elections — with voter turnout as low as 30%, the outcomes are often weighted in favor of the political entity expected to benefit from the additional taxes that levy lid lifts deliver. Despite this, the CKSD school enrichment levy failed to pass in February for the first time in 20 years. The response from the CK School Board is to re-vote on the levy later this month: there is no change in the language or purpose of the levy from February, and the CK School Board has offered no reason for re-running the election.
Whether you live within CKSD or another school district, please consider the importance of returning your ballot in every election, even off-cycle special interest elections. Your vote always matters, and when more voters are paying attention and participating in every election, we’re more likely to get public services and local government that truly represents the will of the people. That CKSD has chosen to re-run this election in order to obtain a different result speaks volumes for their opinion of voters and the election process. While permitted under state law, the message is clear: they are willing to spend additional taxpayer resources to re-run an election because they do not accept the original outcome; they do not accept that “no” means “no.” Disrespecting the will of the voters is not good government.
If you don’t reside in CKSD but know others who do, please pass this important message along to them.
Additional information related to the CKSD special election re-run this April:
Voter information pamphlet:
Percent of CKSD students meeting standards for the 2021-2022 school year:
- ELA (English Language Arts): 59.6%
- Math: 32.8%
- Science: 68.4%
(In terms of letter grades, 60-69% = D and below 60% = F)
2021 base salary for the CKSD Superintendent, Erin Prince: $242,237 (excludes taxpayer funded health insurance and pension benefits and represents a 10.1% pay raise over her 2020 salary of $220,000):
Sexual orientation programming in CKSD elementary schools:
Campaign contributions to market the April special election re-run:
From the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) link above, the top cash contributor promoting the CKSD special levy is a major beneficiary of school district funds: Bassetti Architects of Seattle. Bassetti received design contracts for at least two Kitsap County School construction projects:
1. Klahowya Secondary School in Silverdale
2. South Kitsap High School
The other campaign contributors are primarily current or retired CKSD school administrators and other CKSD employees. The source of their campaign contributions to impose a new $20 million per year levy on CKSD residents are the taxes paid by CKSD residents: They’re using your money to market and re-run an election to get more of your money…for after school clubs and athletics…despite failing grades in their core education mission from the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.