West Ada trustees downplay squabbles to support school district’s levy

In their first meeting since the abrupt resignation of Superintendent Linda Clark, West Ada School District trustees on Tuesday focused on one of the most important issues they have faced since coming into office in July: Voter passage of a $28 million, two-year supplemental levy on Nov. 3

The rancor, dissension and outright anger that characterized meetings leading up to Clark’s resignation Friday gave way to a civil, informational meeting with a purpose: Remind voters that defeating the levy could cost the district 35 teachers and up to nine school days if it fails.

“This is a very, very big deal,” said Trustee Mike Vuittonet. “Our message must be clear.”

The total levy rate for bonds, plant maintenance and supplemental levies would remain at $399 per $100,000 of taxable property value if the levy passes.

Voters will be asked to continue a levy begun four years ago when Idaho schools fell into a financial hole as the Great Recession forced the state to cut funding to its 115 districts.

More than 100 people filled a West Ada district office hearing room Tuesday as district and community leaders talked about what the levy means.

“I think from a business perspective our key asset is our employees . It is vital we have a well-trained employee base,” said Rob McCarvel, Meridian Chamber of Commerce board chairman.

“ I also support the levy because it sends the right message. We desperately need to fill the growing teacher shortage,” said Rich Osguthorpe, Boise State University dean of the College of Education.

If the state gets back to fully funding schools, “we will discontinue asking for the levies,” said Tina Dean, board chair. Meanwhile, the potential loss of nine days to the school calendar if the levy failed would take two weeks of teaching away from instructors, she noted.

The levy doesn’t mean new taxes, but a continuation of a tax levy that has been in existence since 2012, said Julie Madsen, one of two new trustees on the board.

91 Percentage of West Ada School District’s $196 million general fund budget that goes for salaries and benefits.

Last Friday, the district was caught in turmoil as Clark announced her resignation after four months of butting heads with the board. Complaints about Clark’s contract, her appointment to the State Board of Education and her speaking out on affairs in other districts raised the temperature of the discussion, which increasingly focused on the district administration and not the students who would be affected if the levy failed.

Clark said trustees wanted her to stay on at the district until after the levy vote, and then resign. She said she refused to do that. Trustee Russell Joki denied her account and said the board never asked Clark to resign.

But trustees acknowledged Tuesday that the upheaval of the past several months could endanger the levy’s passage.