Kuna gets ready for school cuts

With a levy defeated, students and staff will see 'major changes,' officials say.

broberts@idahostatesman.comMarch 13, 2014 

The Kuna School District could lose employees, see larger class sizes, cut programs and reduce the number of school days now that voters have not renewed a two-year, $6.38 million supplemental levy.

A committee of community members and district employees will spend about two months reviewing budget cuts for 2014-2015, Superintendent Wendy Johnson said Wednesday.

Staff cuts are expected to come through attrition.

Voters rejected renewal of the property tax levy they approved two years ago by 52 percent to 48 percent.

Kuna was the only one of six Treasure Valley districts to lose its levy. Voting was light Tuesday, with 11.6 percent of voters eligible to cast ballots turning out in Ada County and 14.2 percent in Canyon County.

A week before the election, levy opponents calling themselves Parents for Advancing Education sent out nearly 1,800 fliers against the Kuna levy. Opponents said continuing the levy would be a hardship in a district where 44 percent of the students are low-income.

"It makes it more difficult for struggling (people) to make ends meet," said Michael Law, a group member and Kuna school trustee. Law said he was not speaking for the district or the board.

"The economy hasn't improved like we would have hoped it would," said Royleen Anderson, the board vice chair, who supported the levy. "Some people are hurting,"

As a bedroom community for Meridian and Nampa, Kuna has little in the way of an industrial or commercial base to help share the property tax load with homeowners. Eighty percent of the district's property taxes come from residents.

Continuing the levy would have cost Kuna residents an estimated $326 annually for a home with a taxable value of $100,000, Kuna school officials said.

"It is a huge number," Law said.

Stephen Ackerman, an adjunct economics professor at the College of Idaho, opposed the levy because it didn't give priority to educational materials that he said are essential to helping students learn.

Johnson said district leaders "assumed" priorities in the levy were the same as when it passed in 2012 - to keep staff and programs.

Ackerman said he hopes the levy's defeat will lead to discussion about savings the district could make and how to improve materials for teachers.

"If we can save money, I am willing to spend a little bit more," Ackerman said.

Bill Roberts: 377-6408, Twitter: @IDS_BillRoberts

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