Kuna trustees embrace proposed ordinance restricting developers

KUNA — Kuna School District trustees are poised to throw their support behind a bold initiative to stop new subdivision development if the school serving those homes is overcrowded.

The initiative is a proposed ordinance that would require a development application package to include a letter from the school district certifying available capacity. The concept is a collaboration between the Middleton and Vallivue schools districts and the Middleton City Council. Middleton will consider adopting the proposed ordinance on April 17.

“My primary purpose is to stop further development,” said Dave Murray, a Middleton councilman and the ordinance’s backer, who presented his idea to the Kuna School Board.

Trustees plan to explore ways to have Middleton’s concept implemented in Kuna, which is at the forefront of urban growth. School overcrowding is a primary concern, and they’ve been searching for solutions to the influx of new homes

“Middleton’s (idea) takes it to a whole different level,” said Kuna superintendent Wendy Johnson. She’s leaving this summer for a job with the Boise School District. 

Trustees expressed interest and support, but Murray acknowledged fierce opposition.

“I was recently made aware that I’m either the Antichrist or Satan himself,” Murry told trustees.

“We’re stepping up alone, but I’m really hoping that other communities will put pressure on their cities and counties and join us so that we’re not standing up there all alone,” he said.

“I think it’s awesome and I’d like to help support you,” said Kim Nixon, board chairperson. “I’m on a school board and my main mission is to the kids.”

As one of the fastest growing communities in the Treasure Valley, Kuna is an ideal candidate. Voters last year rejected a $111 million bond issue to build a new school and expand capacity through major renovations. 

Many of Kuna’s schools are at or nearing capacity: six elementary schools are at 95% capacity; the two middle schools are at 85%; and the high schools are at 103%.

The district also launched an initiative called the “volunteer capital mitigation fee,” an effort to encourage developers to voluntarily pay a school impact fee to help fund schools in areas where they’re building more homes. To date, no developer has made a cash contribution.

Murray outlined his disagreement with the Idaho Legislature, which, in his opinion, has failed to adequately fund an environment conducive to learning, because “we still rely on the supermajority bond, which is not the constitutional method of funding for schools in this state.”

The ordinance’s primary goal is to protect Middleton schools. Three elementary schools are either full or overcrowded, and schools should be viewed as infrastructure; if there isn’t capacity — like a sewer or electrical system — the school doesn’t have room for more students.

“I fully intend to go pick a fight with the Legislature next year. And I’m looking to build a coalition of people to help me with that. So if any of you are willing and able, I would love to have you,” Murray said.

Trustees plan to continue discussing the concept at their next board meeting.

Darren Svan

Darren Svan

Reporter Darren Svan has a background in both journalism and education. Prior to working for military schools at overseas installations, he was news editor at several publications in Wyoming and Colorado. You can send news tips to [email protected].

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