Kuna’s ‘insane’ building boom has schools bursting at the seams

Replacing Mountain View Elementary

Sixty-year-old Mountain View Elementary is nearly worn out. If voters approve a Boise School District bond in March, the school would be replaced.
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Sixty-year-old Mountain View Elementary is nearly worn out. If voters approve a Boise School District bond in March, the school would be replaced.

Residential growth is filling up Kuna schools.

Following the downturn of the Great Recession, Kuna’s housing market has rebounded with more than 500 new home building permits issued in the past two years — and more on the way.

“It’s insane,” said Amber Abercrombie, a Kuna mom with two kids in district schools.

Kuna School District will come to voters on March 14 with a proposed $40 million school construction bond and a $2.5 million levy for new educational and technology materials to prepare for more than 700 new students in the 5,500-student district over the next three years.

“Trying to shove 700 new students into already overcrowded spaces makes the education job nearly impossible,” said Abercrombie.

Between 2003 and 2013, Kuna has grown by 76 percent to nearly 17,000 residents, according to U.S. Census data.

Kuna is one of four Southwest Idaho districts that will ask taxpayers for a combined total of more $300 million for school construction and maintenance on March 14. The others are Boise, West Ada and Vallivue school districts.

Kuna’s growth is obvious on a drive through the city’s business district. Kuna has sprouted new grocery stores, a Ridley’s and an Albertsons, said Jeff Miller, owner of Stubbs Realty in Kuna. An eight-screen movie theater is also under discussion, he says, as the city undergoes a transition from its once-rural roots.

Kuna’s housing prices, among the lowest in Ada County, are a draw. The median price for a home in Kuna was $187,100 in 2016, compared with $244,900 across Ada County.

Kuna school officials anticipate 1,000 new homes in Kuna over the next three years.

The district has 10 schools. New students will enter a district where many schools already are either at or above capacity, so the district’s plan calls for expansion at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

What would Kuna bond, levy pay for?

▪  Build the first third of a new high school to reduce overcrowding at Kuna High, including new classrooms and professional-technical space. $25 million.

▪  Convert Teed Elementary to a middle school for grades six to eight; expand Kuna Middle School, which now has grades seven and eight, to include sixth grade. $6 million.

▪  Four new classrooms at Silver Trail and Reed elementary schools, other building updates. $5 million.

▪  Other maintenance. $4 million

Other details

▪  Proposal: $40 million bond, plus a $5 million supplemental levy over two years to purchase textbooks, especially history and math, and make technology improvements.

▪  Vote required for passage: Bond requires 66.7 percent; levy takes simple majority.

▪  Property taxes: $500 per $100,000 of taxable value, no change in current tax rate. (Note: Your actual tax bill is based on both the rate and the taxable value of your home after the homeowners exemption is deducted.) Tax rate will stay the same because the district refinanced some bonds and the overall market value for property in Kuna rose 12.2 percent to $1.95 billion in 2016-17 over the previous fiscal year.

▪  Expected annual interest rate on bond: 3.41 percent per year.

▪  Interest paid on bond: $9.4 million from property taxes; $8 million from a state bond subsidy fund.

West Ada levy

West Ada School District is looking to extend its levy for maintenance. District officials want to levy up to $160 million over the next decade, compared to $200 million in the previous maintenance levy.

▪  Reason for the drop: In the past the district paid for some school construction with its maintenance levy. But officials expect to pay for future school construction with construction bonds.

▪  Tax rate: Would drop from $118.84 per $100,000 of taxable property value to $94.30.

▪  Vote required for passage: Sixty percent.

▪  What it would pay for: Levy would be used for maintenance and relatively small construction projects. Under consideration: gyms at Spalding STEM Academy and Pioneer Elementary; artificial turf replacement at Rocky Mountain High School; and a remodel at Meridian Middle School.

Boise schools construction bond

Boise School District wants a $172.5 million bond as part of a $217 million building-improvement project.

Boise would replace six elementary schools and build a new one at Harris Ranch. Plans call for an expansion at Timberline High School to accommodate growth, and renovation of the 1936 Boise High School gym. Almost every school in the district would get some improvements if the bond passes.

▪  Length: 20 years

▪  Vote required for passage: 66.7 percent.

▪  Expected interest rate: 2.96 percent

▪  Total interest payments: $70,723,500

▪  Tax rate: $70, unchanged from existing rate for bonded debt, in part because the 1996 bond that built Shadow Hills and Trail Wind elementary schools is expiring, as is a supplemental levy that kept class sizes from growing.

Vallivue schools maintenance levy

Vallivue School District seeks a $2 million-a-year maintenance levy for 10 years.

▪  Vote required for passage: Two-thirds.

▪  The levy is double the previous maintenance levy amount, but the district’s overall tax rate of $582 per $100,000 of taxable value, which includes more than the maintenance levy, will not change because of increases in the district’s overall property

Early and Election Day voting

Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 14. Vote at your regular voting place.

Early voting continues through March 10. Here are locations and times:

Ada County Elections office, 400 N. Benjamin Lane Suite 100, Boise: Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m.

Meridian City Hall, 33 E. Broadway Ave., Meridian: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Boise City Hall, 150 N. Capitol Blvd., Boise: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Canyon County Elections office, 1102 E. Chicago St., Caldwell: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.