Kuna gears up for new levy fight

The School District will still plan for possible cuts in case voters reject the tax measure again in May.

broberts@idahostatesman.comMarch 22, 2014 

kuna, school, board, levy, tax, education

Michael Law, seen in March during a discussion of the March 11 defeat of a supplemental levy for the Kuna School District. The measure later passed during the May 20 election.

JOE JASZEWSKI — jjaszewski@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

Parents are already setting plans for another campaign for a two-year, $3.19-million-a-year levy just days after voters rejected it.

"We are ready to go door to door and talk to people and get people motivated and make the levy pass," said Jennifer Leuck, a Kuna mother with three children in the district.

The Kuna School Board voted 3-2 Friday to put the levy up for a vote May 20 - Idaho's primary election day - after voters rejected a previous measure March 11 by fewer than 100 votes out of 2,193 cast in light turnout. A simple majority is needed for passage.

"I think we've got momentum right now," said Sallie McArthur, a board member who supported the May election. More than 300 people turned out to a community meeting Wednesday, and speakers in support of a new levy far outnumbered opponents.

Royleen Anderson, board vice chairwoman, wanted to hold off on the levy until August, to give the community time to heal after the March vote. "It caused a rift in our community," said Anderson, who supported the levy in the first vote.

Michael Law, a trustee who drew criticism Wednesday for actively working to defeat the levy, also voted no. He said he expects to work against this levy, too.

"We just voted," he said.

Law said the levy is a hardship in a district where 44 percent of the students are low-income. He said the district had not done a good enough job of prioritizing spending.

Paul Luscusk, a Kuna parent with two special-needs students in the district, launched a petition on change.org Friday calling for Law to resign. "He is clearly unfit for his office, as he does not consider the needs of his constituency as long as he and his neighbors have 'no new taxes'," Luscusk wrote.

Law said he has no plans to resign. He is working on a district budget committee that will move ahead with drafting a list of possible cuts if district voters don't support the levy. Cuts could include staff reductions through attrition, fewer school days, larger class sizes and changes to programs.

If voters approve the levy, it would be a continuation of one approved by voters in 2012. That levy costs homeowners about $326 a year on a house with a taxable value of $100,000. The current levy expires in June. Trustees sought the full $3.19 million, even though the district expects to receive $600,000 from the Legislature's boost in operational funds to the district next year.

The new legislative dollars will be used to help offset rising health insurance costs and to perform some maintenance that went unattended when Idaho districts lost operational money from the state during and after the recession, Superintendent Wendy Johnson said.

Kuna parent Amber Abercrombie predicted "a totally different election than last time. I do think we will see different results."

Senior citizens are reaching out to parents to find ways to help, Leuck said. "A lot of people didn't know anything about (the election)," she said.

Bill Roberts: 377-6408, Twitter: @IDS_BillRoberts

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