Kuna contemplates another levy

In the week since voters narrowly rejected a two-year, $6.38 million levy, Wendy Johnson has seen two things happening in her Kuna School District.

First, principals and supervisors are seeing an uptick in requests for letters of recommendation — a harbinger of a possible teacher exodus.

Wendy Johnson
Wendy Johnson, Kuna district superintendent

Second, she said, she is hearing from patrons urging the district to give the levy another try, as soon as possible.

So the Kuna School Board will hold a special meeting Wednesday night, and one item on the agenda is significant: “levy scenarios.” Trustees and the public will get a chance to talk about the options of running another levy, or going without the money.

The options for the district — and for Johnson, who is the middle of her first year as superintendent — shake out as follows.

  • A May levy. The earliest districts can go back to voters is May 20, the date of the primary election. But that also means running a levy less than three months after 52 percent of voters rejected a levy.
  • An August levy. After last week’s election, said Johnson, the district’s first thought was to take a breather and run a levy on the August election date. But that levy would come too late to backfill the district’s 2014-15 budget, and the district will have to negotiate next year’s teacher contracts before the election.
  • No levy. Without a levy, said Johnson, the district will probably have to cut some days from the school calendar and leave some teaching positions unfilled.

The district has made made various spending cuts in recent years — such as eliminating a midday school bus route and moving kindergartners to full-day, every-other-day school sessions. But Johnson says the district would have no recourse but to cut personnel costs, which could prompt teachers to move to other Treasure Valley districts where voters have approved levies. “The people who can leave, do,” she said.

But another levy could make for a heated election in Kuna, a rural bedroom community district south and west of Boise.

Opponents waged a late campaign against the March levy, launching a Facebook page under the umbrella “Parents for Advancing Education.” Opponents said Kuna’s school property tax rates were higher than their neighboring districts, and the levy would place an undue burden in a district where 44 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. And the opposition has at least one well-placed ally: Kuna district trustee Michael Law, whose cell phone number appeared on an anti-levy flier.

Supporters have also gone online, launching a petition drive urging the district to take another run at a levy. “The lack of these funds will result in cuts that will have immediate and possible lasting detrimental effects on our children and the incredible educators in our district.”