Thursday, March 31, 2011

Today is the last day to sign up for the $10 Kuna Melba News subscription

Just a reminder everyone: Today is the last day to sign up for the $10 Kuna Melba News subscription. Starting tomorrow, April 1, we're going back to the regular rate of $28 per year, which is still just 54 cents per week to have a bunch of local news delivered right to your mailbox. Call us at 922-3008 or sign up at
If you're already a subscriber, we're doing a special customer appreciation deal for the month of April. We're taking $10 off the regular rate of $28 (or $26 if you're a senior) if you renew your subscription in April. If your subscription doesn't expire for a while, we'll just tack on a year to whenever your subscription expires.
So the cost will be just $18 to renew for a year or $16 if you're a senior.
Why are we doing this?
Because we feel strongly and passionately that everyone in this town should be reading the paper every week. We feel strongly and passionately that everyone in this town should know when and where there will be a school levy vote and how much it will cost you. Everyone in this town should be informed about your city taxes and utility bill. We have no filler in our paper. We are jam-packed with real, local news and information that you need to stay an informed citizen.
And just for good measure, we have plenty of news of neighbors, a community calendar, library news, high school sports coverage, school news, we tell you when sports signups are, we have crossword and sudoku puzzles, weather from KBOI-TV's Vin Crosby, etc. The list goes on and on.
Once you subscribe and start getting that paper in the mail every Thursday, you'll be hooked.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

No Park N Ride lot for Kuna

Ada County Highway District commissioners last week unanimously decided to not build a Park N Ride lot in Kuna for the time being.
Commissioners voted against seeking a federal grant to build the parking lot, given the city of Kuna’s concerns about ACHD staff’s preferred site on Deer Flat Road near Meridian Road.
As I reported in last week’s Editor’s Notebook, the city and ACHD staff were at odds over where to put the parking lot. ACHD staff favored a site on Deer Flat Road near Meridian Road, while the city of Kuna staff preferred a site along Ten Mile Road.
The two sides discussed the issue at a March 15 City Council workshop attended by ACHD staff members.
ACHD staff argued that the Deer Flat site makes the most sense because it lies in the direction of travel for many commuters, namely, up state Highway 69 to Boise. It is also near a proposed future bus route. Secondly, the money that would be used to build the parking lot would come from the Federal Transit Administration, which is looking for traffic congestion relief projects. The current traffic at Deer Flat and Linder is a “poster child” for traffic congestion relief, according to ACHD staff.
But the city raised a number of — legitimate — issues with the Deer Flat site, perhaps chief among them was that the site already had preliminary plat approval and a development agreement and that changing things around to accommodate a Park N Ride lot would create a land use approval process that could take as long as a year. In addition, Ten Mile and Lake Hazel would not require any land purchase because the city already owned the land. Plus, once the Ten Mile interchange opens, Ten Mile Road will become a major thoroughfare and will become the direction of travel for many residents.
At the March 15 City Council meeting, city officials several times criticized ACHD for not including the city in the planning process from the beginning.
But at the ACHD commission meeting on March 23, it was revealed that city planning director Steve Hasson had been involved right from the beginning at the kickoff planning meeting on Oct. 12, 2010. I find it unfortunate that City Council members were misled to believe that ACHD hadn’t involved the city from the beginning. And I find it unfortunate that that message was conveyed in this column last week. I wish someone — ACHD officials or Hasson — had set the record straight at the council meeting that the city of Kuna had been involved in Park N Ride lot planning. Why no one did, I don’t know.
Hasson told ACHD commission members that it was an intentional decision to leave the Kuna City Council members out of the early discussion in order to avoid jeopardizing future land use decisions that council members might make.
ACHD commissioner Dave Case, a former Kuna Planning & Zoning Commission member, wanted to make it clear for the record that it was an administrative decision on the part of Hasson and Kuna Mayor Scott Dowdy to not involve the City Council and in no way was a decision by ACHD to keep the process a secret.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Luke does a good job with photojournalism

You may have noticed the credit on last week's photo of the vandalism at the Kuna Cemetery as being "Luke McIntosh." The photo was taken by my son, Luke, who turns 9 in a couple of weeks. On the day that I went out to cover the story, Nicola had a meeting with an advertiser, and I had to go home to meet Luke after school. When he got home, I said, "Come on, we have to go out to a breaking news story and you're going to be my photographer." I could sense Luke's suppressed excitement as we headed out the door. When we got to the cemetery and met with Marie Beatty and Efren Garcia, Luke got to clicking away. Just like his dad, he took well over 100 photos. Marie told me that the two people responsible for the vandalism were a 12-year-old and a 13-year-old, not much older than Luke. It served as an interesting juxtaposition.
This isn't the first time Luke's taken photos for the paper. He took photos of the Kuna FFA auction a couple of years back and he took a great photo of then-Rep. Walt Minnick visiting SPI Transportation in Kuna.
No pressure, but Luke sure has a talent for it and enjoys it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Looking for something to do today? Check out this concert in Kuna

Paul Saik is an accomplished vocalist and pianist. He is the Artist-in-Residence at the Cathedral of the Rockies in Boise. His passion is leading people in worship, and his music has touched many people, as he has performed in numerous churches throughout the country. His concerts are a unique journey through his life as he performs various styles of music. You can hear everything from opera, Broadway, piano and vocal solos. But everything leads to his desire to bring comfort, guidance and the presence of God to each listener, so that they may know that God truly loves them. “I don’t know why God has blessed me with the talents He has, just as He blesses every person with their own…but I want to use them to honor Him, to thank Him, to lead others in worshipping Him. My prayer is that all who see how I live my life, find Him in me.” Paul lives his purpose with every breath and every step armed with a passion for sacred music and a sincere desire to reach others with the powerful message of Christ’s love. He will perform at 2 p.m. today, March 27, at the Kuna United Methodist Church (260 W 4th St.). The public is invited to attend this special event.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Kuna cheer team takes top places at state

Congratulations to the Kuna cheer squad, which took first place in the 4A district tournament, two third-place trophies from the state tournament and a state championship for the Stunt Team — the only all-male stunt team at the tournament.
This is the first year that the Idaho High School Activities Association has recognized cheer and dance as a sport, and Kuna really showed how competitive we can be in this sport.
I see these guys at the games cheering and doing stunts, and I am always amazed at some of the things they do. Now we all know that they're the real deal in a competitive setting.
In the photo, Kuna's stunt team Chris Millspaugh, Ralph Rivas, Eli Crespin, Nick Morgan and Ryan Morris celebrate their first-place state victory.
Great job, guys. Keep up the great work.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Kuna should capitalize on local farm movement

Thank you to Sharon Fisher, chairwoman of the Kuna Chamber of Commerce's economic development committee, for putting together last week's agribusiness panel.
It was an interesting conversation at the very least. I hope it serves as a springboard for future cooperation and a joint project among Kuna's agriculture interests, particularly Kuna's agritourism businesses, such as Vogel Farms Country Market, Cabalo's Orchard, Indian Creek Winery and Linder Farms.
While the Kuna Farmers Market is a good starting place, unfortunately, “a bad day in Eagle is a good month in Kuna,” according to one of the vendors who left the Kuna Farmers Market.
That’s because there’s not enough awareness of the market in the local community. Even though local residents can get an entire meal at the Kuna Farmers Market, from produce and bread to meats and milk, not enough people know about what the market has to offer.
Debi Vogel said she'd like to see a directory of all the farms in the Kuna area all in one place, so that people from outside of Kuna can make a day of it in Kuna. A visitor could go to Linder Farms in the morning, head over to Cabalo’s for some apples or produce, go to Indian Creek Winery for some wine, take a tour of Stewart Dairy, go to Vogel’s to pick up some steaks for dinner that night, have lunch at El Gallo Giro, stop off at Paul’s on the way out of town. There’s a tremendous opportunity for Kuna to package that experience and sell it to the outside world.
Great idea, that I think Kuna could execute — if the businesses can come together. If they join the Kuna Chamber of Commerce, as they should, the chamber could help facilitate such a project.
Who knows, if some people who live in Kuna take a look at people from Boise and Meridian coming down to Kuna, they might think to themselves, "Hmm, maybe I should check out Kuna, too."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Kuna High School students homeless this weekend

The Kuna High School Honor Society/Sociology Class Homeless Project will take place this Friday and Saturday at the high school outside the library windows facing Deer Flat Road. Students from the Honor Society and Mr. Krumm’s Sociology classes will be living in cardboard boxes and under tarps, experiencing for two days, what homeless people go through every day.
As a part of this exercise, Honor Society advisor, Rodger Huckabee, says he wants to bring awareness for what life is like for over 2300 people in Idaho today. There are families in Kuna who are experiencing this most humbling existence and those students who have a warm bed and a full stomach every night should be aware of what we take for granted and a better understanding of those who do not have those benefits.
As a part of this project initiated by the Honor Society, there will be a “fill the boot” drive along Deer Flat and in downtown Kuna on Saturday in an effort to raise funds to help the homeless in our own community. Again, according to Huckabee, there has been an amazing amount of interest by the students of KHS to participate in this event, and members of the staff, and the local law enforcement have offered to chaperone and help keep the students secure during their “ordeal” expected to run from about 3:30 Friday afternoon until Midnight on Saturday.
Those interested in making contributions to this activity may contact the high school at 955-2000 or look for participants on Deer Flat Road at the school or downtown on Saturday.

One week left in the Kuna Melba News $10 subscription deal

There's just one more week left in our $10 one-year subscription to the Kuna Melba News. We've been offering the deal — 64 percent off the regular subscription rate (take that, Groupon!) — for the month of March. We started out the month sending out a Money Mailer coupon then followed up last week with a postcard delivered to every household in the Kuna school district.
Can't say we aren't trying.
If you're a subscriber and got the postcard, please pass it along to a friend and if you like the Kuna Melba News, recommend that they subscribe.
We just had a subscriber come into the office to renew his subscription telling us that he looks forward to Thursdays because he enjoys the paper so much. He said he likes the variety.
That was music to my ears. I see so many community weeklies that focus on just city council meetings or car accidents but no features. Or papers that do all features but no government watchdog stories. Or papers that have mostly submitted items and no enterprise or investigative stories.
I love it when a subscriber tells me that they love the variety of stuff in the paper: hard news, features, city council, school board, student achievement, high school sports, puzzles, weather, history page, etc.
So sign up by Thursday, March 31. Deal is over at midnight.
You can call us at 922-3008, do it online at or just send us a check for $10 to Kuna Melba News, PO Box 373, Kuna ID 83634.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

City of Kuna, ACHD at odds over Park N Ride lot

The city of Kuna and the Ada County Highway District are at odds over a proposed Park N Ride lot in Kuna.
Despite having six items to cover in a pre-council workshop last week, the two sides spent all 90 minutes discussing just the one topic of the parking lot.
With nine ACHD Commuteride vans traveling out of Kuna every day, ACHD is looking for a 1- or 2-acre site to build a single parking lot to congregate vehicles. Currently, Commuteride vans meet passengers in four locations around Kuna, including the parking lots at Paul’s Market and the LDS church on Avalon Street.
Last year, ACHD identified Federal Transit Administration money to build a parking lot. ACHD began studying the issue in October and narrowed the list of potential sites to the following:
• Deer Flat Road, west of Hwy 69.
• Deer Flat Road, at School Avenue.
• Ten Mile Road, at Ardell Road.
• Ten Mile Road, north of Lake Hazel Road.
Last month, ACHD held an open house unveiling the four sites and soliciting feedback.
As was obvious at last week’s workshop, ACHD staff members and project team members favor the site at Deer Flat and Meridian roads. They cited interest among commuters who use Commuteride as well as a survey to which 29 people responded. In addition, ACHD owns a small portion of land at the site, and neighboring landowners expressed an eager willingness to sell to ACHD for the parking lot. Finally, ACHD staff members said this stretch of Deer Flat Road is a “poster child” for receiving funds from FTA, which is looking for projects to get cars off the road. They pointed to a photo of the traffic congestion at Deer Flat and Linder roads as an example of how a commuter parking lot would help alleviate such traffic.
Seems to all make sense, right? But city planning director Steve Hasson, Mayor Scott Dowdy and council members Lisa Bachman and Jeff Lang poked holes all over ACHD’s proposal.
First off, the city expressed disappointment that ACHD had not contacted the city right off the bat, back in October but waited until just a few weeks ago. After all, this is the city’s jurisdiction. Why not work closely with the city from the start?
Had they done that, Point No. 2, they would have learned that the site at Deer Flat and Meridian had already been planned, platted and approved by the city, bringing with it land use encumbrances, an LID assessment and a collector road running right through the middle of it.
Third, much — if not most — of the problem traffic at Deer Flat and Linder is caused by people going to the high school, which wouldn’t be alleviated by a park n ride lot, Lang pointed out.
Another point that wasn’t brought up is that by putting a parking lot at Deer Flat and Meridian, you’d actually be adding as many as 100 cars to the area from the Commuteride passengers who are now driving to Avalon Street.
The city, rightly in my mind, favors Ten Mile Road for the parking lot. City Council members voted for Ten Mile and Ardell as their first preference, Ten Mile and Lake Hazel as their second choice.
Personally, I favor Ten Mile and Lake Hazel. For starters, the city of Kuna already owns the land, so no money would have to be used to purchase or lease any land. Next, the city has already planned for a park n ride lot on this land. Also, once the Ten Mile interchange with I-84 is completed this summer, Ten Mile will become a major thoroughfare in the future for Kuna, likely a route for many commuters. Finally, it likely will be much easier for Valley Regional Transit to divert a bus a couple of miles down Ten Mile Road and back up to its usual route than it would be to drive some six miles to Deer Flat Road and back up to Overland.
ACHD staff did make some valid points that shouldn’t be overlooked. One is that a parking lot can be an economic stimulus to the immediate area, as commuters will tend to pick up dry cleaning or dinner near where they park their car. If the city is interested in getting the so-called Profile Ridge development jumpstarted, their ears should perk up at that argument.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Kuna supplemental levy election will be May 17

Did you read the letter to the editor in the Press-Tribune, saying the Vallivue supplemental levy passed because no one knew about it and that the local newspaper was complicit by not informing readers about it?
Well, the paper did publish stories about it, but I never want anyone accusing the Kuna Melba News of not providing enough coverage of an important issue.
At the last supplemental levy election, in May 2009, someone came into our office saying that the election was kept a secret — even though we had put it on the front page multiple times and wrote several stories about it leading up to the election.
Well, we're doing it again. It was on our front page March 9, just one day after school board members decided to put the measure on the May 17 ballot. We ran another version of the story this week, and we'll keep providing information leading up to the election. Don't say we didn't warn you.
Voters in the Kuna school district will vote May 17 on a two-year $1.5 million per year supplemental levy.
Voting will take place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17. Polling places have not yet been finalized.
A simple majority is required for passage.
Kuna school board members voted unanimously to put the measure on the ballot. District officials have said the money is needed to help plug projected funding shortfalls from the state. District officials have estimated next year’s shortfall to be about $1.95 million.
If approved, the $1.5 million levy would cost a property owner within the Kuna school district about $156 per $100,000 of taxable value.
The Kuna school district currently operates with a $1.1 million supplemental levy that was approved by voters two years ago and expires this year. The estimated cost of continuing the $1.1 million levy is $114 per $100,000 of taxable value.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Kuna Boys & Girls Club hearing is delayed

A Kuna Planning & Zoning Commission hearing on a Kuna Boys & Girls Club originally scheduled for March 23 has been delayed.
According to local organizers, Ada County Highway District staff were not able to finish their internal report in time to present it to the ACHD governing board on March 16, and so the city is postponing the public hearing until sometime after ACHD meets again on April 6.
ACHD has notified the Boys & Girls Club that its policy is to require extension of all stub streets, and it found that the Boys & Girls Club plan did not include the extension of Hyssop Street. In response, the Boys & Girls Club has submitted a request for a waiver of that policy regarding Hyssop Street for safety, cost and land use reasons.
Local organizers are anticipating that the waiver request will be heard at the April 6 ACHD meeting.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Ada County is requesting a zone change and development agreement for a site at the east end of West Mendi Place in Kuna, where local organizers are planning to build a permanent 15,000-square-foot facility.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Northwest Vocal Project is coming to the Kuna Performing Arts Center

The KPAC Events Council is pleased to present Northwest Vocal Project at the Kuna Performing Arts Center on Friday, April 22, at 7:30 p.m.
Northwest Vocal Project, based in Bellevue, Wash., is an ever-growing group of young men between the ages of 18 and 29 who have made it their mission to instill in their audiences a love for a cappella harmonizing. They sing all genres of music, from gospel to jazz, to barbershop and contemporary. Northwest Vocal Project has won numerous awards since their inception in 2007 and, most recently, placed 1st at the International Youth Chorus Festival held in Las Vegas in January.
General seating tickets go on sale beginning April 1 and are only $10 per adult, $8 for students and will be available online and at area businesses beginning April 1. All net proceeds go directly back to the school district to the benefit of Kuna’s students! Keep reading the Kuna Melba News each week to receive additional details about this exciting upcoming visit from Northwest Vocal Project. It’s a show you don’t want to miss! Details also available at

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Jackals take league championship

Congratulations to the Jackals of the mites division, who won their league championship this morning. Luke looked particularly handsome with his medal and the trophy. Great season, and a big thanks to all the coaches who helped the boys this year, particularly to head coach Cal Ingraham, who did a great job steering the ship. Up the boards, spread out, and pass. A successful recipe. Looking forward to three-on-three this summer.

Kuna's Bernie Fisher helps sign Medal of Honor Highway bill

Bernie Fisher is alive and well. A couple of weeks ago, a gentleman by the name of Bernard "Bernie" Fischer, a military veteran, passed away. Several people contacted me about it, thinking was the same Bernie Fisher who is Kuna's very own Medal of Honor recipient, a true American hero. The Bernie Fischer who passed away is a different person.
Our Bernie Fisher, after whom the Kuna city park is named, was on hand with Gov. Butch Otter and state Sen. John Goedde last week for the signing of Senate Bill 1050, which designates Idaho Highway 3 as the Medal of Honor Highway.
The ceremony took place on Thursday, March 10, at the Governor’s Ceremonial Office at the state Capitol.
Fisher earned the Medal of Honor for personal action above and beyond the call of duty by risking his life to save a fellow pilot who was shot down during action in the A Shau Valley of Vietnam in 1966.
During the battle, then-Maj. Fisher landed his Douglas A-1E Skyraider on an airfield controlled by the enemy under intense ground fire, pulled the downed pilot from the wreckage and took him aboard his aircraft, successfully escaping despite several bullets striking the plane. The aircraft that Fisher was flying that day is displayed at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. He also had experience in such fighters as the F-80 Shooting Star, F-86 Sabre, and F-101 Voodoo, along with hundreds of close-air-support missions in the A-1E.
March 25 is also national Medal of Honor Day, another great opportunity to honor Fisher. Thank you, Bernie Fisher, for your service to our country.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Kuna Melba News will host after-hours party along with Idaho Power

The Kuna Melba News and Idaho Power will co-host “First Tuesday” for the Kuna Chamber of Commerce starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 5, at the Kuna Melba News office, 326 Avenue D, downtown Kuna.
The public is invited to attend. Don’t miss the the “early bird” drawing, plus other prizes. Refreshments will be provided.
Nicola and I will be on hand as well as Idaho Power’s Melanie Willer, customer representative, Customer Relations & Energy Efficiency. Melanie’s territory includes all of Kuna.
Also attending will be Blake Watson, community relations representative, Customer Relations & Energy Efficiency for Idaho Power.
This is a really good, fun way to get together and network in a relaxed atmosphere. You'll also get a rare chance to see the palatial offices of the Kuna Melba News.
As you can see from the photo above, we had a pretty good turnout the last time we hosted this event. Put it on your calendar and come on down.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Back when I was an editor at the Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y., our music critic, Jeff Spevak, wrote a column raving about this up-and-coming singer-songwriter who was coming to a small club in Rochester. He went on and on about how this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see this performer in a small setting, because her shows from now on were sure to be in larger concerts and arenas. Yeah, right, I thought. How many times have we heard about an up-and-coming sure-to-be star? Well, that performer's name was Norah Jones, and as usual, Spevak was dead-on right.
The reason I think of that is because of the growing momentum behind our very own MacKayla Hunter, of Nampa, who will be appearing on a national show in June. I'm no Jeff Spevak, but it seems to me that MacKayla Hunter is the real deal.
MacKayla will be a guest along with Taylor Swift on the first national airing of The Ed Davis Show, according to MacKayla’s manager Duke VanCampen.
The show will be taped on June 14 and will air on the ION network on June 17. (The exact time is still not confirmed but will be provided at a later date).
In addition, Swift has asked Hunter to be her guest at her live concert on the night of June 14 in St. Paul, Minn., VanCampen said.
I, for one, am hoping MacKayla makes it big and we can all say we knew her back when.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Is Kuna ready to move up to 5A

The Idaho High School Activities Association is preparing a new set of classifications, and it appears Kuna will be moving up to 5A starting with the 2012-13 school year. And in a couple of scenarios, Melba would move up to 3A.
A classification committee of the IHSAA has created three proposals, dividing the state’s high schools into the five classifications based on student enrollment. Under all three scenarios, Kuna would move up to 5A. Under two of the scenarios, Melba would move up to 3A. Kuna is currently in 4A, and Melba is currently in 2A. Both schools are in District III.
The classification committee has sent out the proposals to all of the schools along with a survey seeking input, according to Gerry Nutt, activities director at Middleton High and the committee’s chairman. In an ideal world, there will be a strong leading contender that the committee can agree on and forward to the full IHSAA board, Nutt said. He hopes the committee can make a decision at its April meeting, so that the IHSAA board can vote in June. At that point, the schools and conferences can spend 2011-12 figuring out schedules and tournaments.
You can see all the proposals on Page 4 of this week's Kuna Melba News.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Kuna kicks off varsity baseball season

After Luke's hockey game this morning (Luke's team won 10-2), I headed over to Middleton for the Kuna varsity baseball team's opening game. Kuna looked solid, but Middleton pulled out a come-from-behind 5-4 win. Hopes are high for the Kuna boys this season, as we lost only one player from last year's squad, which made it to the district championship game against BK and went three games into the state tournament. The roster looks pretty similar to last year's roster. The boys made a few defensive errors that I suspect will get cleaned up as we move further into the season. Looking forward to a fun season.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Kuna City Council has a full agenda Tuesday night

Kuna City Council members will have a busy night on Tuesday, March 15, with a pre-council workshop with ACHD, then a full agenda for the regular meeting.
Here is the breakdown:
5:30 p.m.: Workshop with ACHD to discuss:
• Park and Ride lot study,
• ACHD’s five-year work plan,
• concept study for Main and Avalon streets from School to Orchard,
• Deer Flat Road water ponding concern,
• Ten Mile Study update
• Avalon sidewalks and Fourth Street reconsiderations.
Can they get all that done in an hour-and-a-half?
Then the regular council meeting starts at 7 p.m. On the agenda:
• Ordinance changing some street names in Kuna.
• The taxicab ordinance.
• Blower improvements to Lagoon No. 7
• Piping modifications for the Summit View project
• Budget vs. actual financials for FY2011 through Feb. 28, 2011.
• Ordinance on a franchise agreement with Cable One for 15 years.

Council members are also scheduled to go into executive session for potential litigation. There are no public hearings scheduled Tuesday night.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Kuna school district needs more budget transparency

Asking the Kuna school district to cut just 9 percent of its budget in these economic times is not an unreasonable request, according to one of the participants in last week’s study circle session hosted by the school district.
The small business owner said that she has had to deal with a lot more than a 9 percent reduction in revenue in her business, forcing her to cut pay, health benefits, paid vacations, paid sick days and holidays. And she reported that her employees are just happy to still have a job. She said she’s had to comb through her budget multiple times looking for savings, and she urged the school district to do the same.
About 20 people showed up last Thursday for the school district’s study circle on the options for a potential supplemental levy in the face of possible public education cuts from the state.
The state Legislature is considering a $62 million cut in public education funding due to decreased revenues because of the economic recession. School district officials have said that Kuna represents about 1 percent of the state budget, meaning a $62 million statewide cut would result in a $620,000 cut to Kuna’s budget. But district officials now say Kuna represents 1.5 percent of the public education budget, meaning Kuna could see cuts of $930,000. In addition, Kuna can expect a $450,000 cut due to a loss of one-time federal stimulus money, according to the district business manager Bryan Fletcher.
But Fletcher presented figures last week to the study circle that projected a $1.95 million shortfall in funding. He said he plugged the district’s average daily attendance numbers into a worksheet provided by the state to come up with the anticipated revenue shortfall.
Still, last year, the district anticipated $1.9 million in cuts from the state and imposed about $2.6 million in cuts, including charging students as much as $100 per sport as an activity fee.
But now we learn that the funding gap from the state last year was about $637,000, according to the district’s supplemental levy presentation.
At one study circle table, all four citizen participants expressed confusion over the numbers that the district presented and one person suggested that the presentation was misleading because the graphs were “zoomed in” when showing the potential shortfall, making the shortfall appear larger than reality.
The district is currently operating with a $1.1 million supplemental levy that was approved by voters two years ago and expires at the end of this year. The district said the levy costs taxpayers $114 per $100,000 of taxable value.
Study Circle participants were presented with four supplemental levy scenarios:
• Option 1: No Supplemental Levy; Reduces property taxes by $114 per $100,000 in taxable value.
Possible losses include: 12 Teachers, 1 Admin, 4 Support Staff, Keep all existing reductions in place, Salary/Benefit, Extracurricular activities and programs, Staff positions (teachers, administrators & support staff), Course offerings at secondary schools.
• Option 2: $1.1 Million Levy; Keeps property taxes flat at $114 per $100,000 of taxable value.
Possible losses include: 12 Teachers, 1 Admin, 4 Support Staff, Keep all existing reductions in place. Additional reductions may still be necessary, including Salary/Benefit, Extracurricular activities and programs, Staff positions (teachers, administrators & support staff) and course offerings at secondary schools
• Option 3: $1.5 Million Levy; Increases property taxes to $156 per $100,000, an increase of $42.
• Option 4: $1.95 Million Levy; Increases property taxes to $203 per $100,000, an increase of $88.
Opinions of the options at one table were varied. One father whose son plays three sports at the high school (and thus pays $300 per year in extracurricular fees) voted for Option 4 or even higher, namely because he would actually save money by paying $88 more in taxes and saving $300 in fees. Another participant voted for Option 2 to keep taxes flat but to look for more efficiencies in the district. One father, who voted for Option 4, said he didn’t want to pay higher taxes but he wanted the best education environment for his two young children who were just entering the school district.
I have this overwhelming sense, though, that people’s patience is wearing thin. Like the folks at the table, a lot of Kuna residents want to support the school district. They recognize that Kuna is one of the lowest-cost districts in one of the lowest-cost states in the country. They recognize that we don’t have a lot of administrators falling over themselves, that class sizes are high and getting higher. But the numbers just don’t make sense.
“I really can’t make a decision based on the information tonight,” said one participant. “I’m still looking for facts. I’m confused about some of what was presented tonight.”
I suspect that until the district presents coherent, consistent budget numbers, support for yet another supplemental levy just might wane.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Kuna school board meeting tonight

Reminder that the Kuna school board meets tonight at 7 p.m. at the support services building, 711 E. Porter Road. Board members are expected to make a decision on putting a supplemental levy on the ballot in May.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Grade crossings in Kuna will get repairs

Union Pacific will make repairs to the railroad track grade crossings at Bridge Street and Swan Falls Road in Kuna sometime this spring, according to Kuna city planning director Steve Hasson.
Currently, the grade crossing at those two locations is extremely bumpy with a high pitch in the center of the crossing, making it difficult to cross and potentially damaging to vehicles.
Hasson said that he had been in contact with Union Pacific officials, who informed him last week that the grade crossings would be repaired by June.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Do you want to be a Kuna school board member?

The deadline to file paperwork to run for a seat on the Kuna school board is 5 p.m. Friday, March 18.
Three seats will be up for election this year. The election will be held on Tuesday, May 17.
The three seats that are up for election are:
• Zone 1, currently held by Ginny Greger.
• Zone 2, currently held by Dave Case.
• Zone 5, currently held by Carl Ericson.
To be a candidate for school board trustee, you must have been a resident of the trustee zone you are filing candidacy for, for at least 30 days prior to filing a declaration of candidacy.
The declaration of candidacy must be notarized and accompanied by a petition signed by no fewer than five qualified electors of the trustee zone. The petition needs to have the names clearly printed and a complete physical address as well as a signature of the patron signing. Prospective candidates should get a few extra signatures in case some of the signers are not registered voters in the zone.
Both the petition for candidacy and the declaration of candidacy need to be filed with the Clerk of the School Board no later than 5 p.m. on Friday, March 18.
For more information, please contact Susan Crew, Clerk for the Board of Trustees, at 955-0287.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Kuna City Council debates taxicab ordinance

Kuna City Council members debated the merits of a new taxi cab ordinance. Cardoza and Bachman had several questions relating mostly to what they said were too onerous conditions on taxicab companies. Cardoza several times questioned whether “a little town like Kuna” needed some of the provisions for meters and top lights on cabs. Bachman was concerned about the burden that inspections, applications and enforcement would place on city employees.
Hasson said he would scale down the ordinance, make suggested changes and bring it back for a second reading at the next council meeting on March 15.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Kuna Juvenile Justice Council is disbanded

Kuna Juvenile Justice Council program director Zella Johnson reported to Kuna City Council members this week that the Juvenile Justice Council is disbanding.
Started in 1998, the Kuna Juvenile Justice Council has served as a local diversion program for first-time youthful offenders. For the past 13 years, the council worked with hundreds of offenders outside the court system in order to relieve the court system and to produce better outcomes for the offenders. Rather than criminal punishment, the council doled out alternatives, such as community service as reparation for non-violent offenses. For example, a juvenile caught committing graffiti might be assigned painting detail.
“This is a sad, heartfelt thing,” Johnson told council members. She said the council has been referred fewer and fewer cases and that the volunteers who have served on the council, some as far back as inception, “need a break.”
She also said that the juvenile cases have changed in nature and are more often repeat offenders, which the council doesn’t handle.
“This is not Farmer John’s son did something wrong any more,” Johnson said.
Kuna Mayor Scott Dowdy said the Ada County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office increasingly prefers to handle juvenile cases in house, rather than with local councils such as Kuna’s.
“I’m not sure what their rationale is,” Dowdy said. “It seems local efforts are more effective than when it’s administered at the county level.”

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Kuna community celebrates education

Several hundred teachers, parents, students and administrators packed the Kuna High School Commons Wednesday afternoon for an emotional “education celebration.”
The event was planned as an alternative to protests and a counterbalance to the negativity surrounding the debate over state Superintendent Tom Luna’s education reform.
At the end of the celebration, participants filed out to the sidewalk in front of the high school along Deer Flat Road, each one holding up a number in an effort to illustrate the magnitude of 770 teaching positions statewide that would be cut under the education reform plan.
As chants alternated between “Kill the bill” and “Celebrate teachers,” passersby honked their horns and gave the thumbs up.
The nearly two-hour assembly included speeches from Kuna teachers union president Josh Noteboom, Kuna Superintendent Jay Hummel, assistant superintendent Wendy Johnson, teacher Matt Krumm and school board member Kevin Gifford as well as a performance by the Crimson Point Choir, led by music teacher Sharon Johnson, and a rousing performance of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” by the Ross Raptors Chorus and music teacher Dave Dineen.
A number of students also offered their thanks and support for teachers who have helped them.
The assembly provided a united front for the Kuna school district and sent the message that Kuna will continue to stick together in tough times.
“We will persevere no matter what legislation passes,” Krumm told the audience. “Because this community really has students first.”
The assembly included several poignant moments of emotion.
Johnson became choked up several times as she spoke about working in Kuna, starting her career as a teacher Kuna High under then-principal Jay Hummel and returning to Kuna as an administrator.
“When I went to the dark side to be an administrator, my mother told me, ‘Don’t forget who you are,’” she said, breaking down. “ ‘You’re a teacher.’”

Kuna Boys & Girls Club gets public hearing this month

Plans to build a Boys & Girls Club in Kuna will finally get a public hearing this month.
The Kuna Planning & Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 23, to consider a request from the Ada County Boys & Girls Clubs for a zone change and development agreement for a site at the east end of West Mendi Place in Kuna, where local organizers are planning to build a permanent 15,000-square-foot facility.
The public is invited to present written or oral comments regarding the proposal. Any written testimony must be received by March 14, or it may not be considered. Mail written comments to the City of Kuna, P.O. Box 13 Kuna, ID 83634, or drop off at City Hall, 763 W. Avalon St.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

We're not all influenced by the teachers union

The teachers union, apparently, has become much more powerful than we had all imagined. First, we all know that the union has distorted state Superintendent Tom Luna’s education reform plan to turn teachers against the plan.
It’s obvious that union thugs are the reason that teachers are against the plan. It’s merely their own self-interest in lining their own pockets.
Parents, too, must be getting influenced by the teachers union. Why else would thousands of parents be complaining about the education reform plan?
School board members also apparently have fallen under the influence of the teachers union. They can’t simply have problems with the education reform plan. It must be the teachers union’s powerful influence.
How about administrators? They are opposed to many parts of the plan, too. Why? Must be the teachers union.
And now the students. Thousands of them, including some from Kuna, walked out of class Monday morning to protest the education reform plan. Using Facebook and texting, thousands of students organized an Egypt-style march on the state Capitol Monday morning protesting mostly the part of the plan that cuts teachers in order to pay for technology, such as laptops and online courses.
State Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, told a TV station Monday night that he thought the teachers union put the students up to it. Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, told the Statesman that he heard the teachers union put the students up to it. Who did he hear that from? Bob Nonini?
First of all, we all know you can’t really get teenagers to do something they don’t want to do.
Second of all, the accusation that these students somehow don’t have the capacity to form an opinion that they don’t want fewer teachers and are simply being influenced by the teachers union is illustrative of the arrogance of some of these lawmakers.
This type of condescension, I suppose, is what you get when you elect someone with 70 percent of the vote or more. The problem is that just because a legislator got elected with 70 percent of the vote doesn’t mean that 70 percent of the electorate is going to go along with everything he or she supports after they get elected.
But that’s what appears to be happening. Some legislators seem to think that if there is any opposition to their position, it must be this vocal minority that’s simply “stirring things up.” They call on the silent majority to step forward and counterbalance these troublemakers.
Unfortunately, what happens is that we fail to have a productive, honest debate. When one side fails to concede that the other side may have an intelligent position that is worth considering, we have a form of tyranny.
Take, for instance, a recent “survey” that state Sen. Russ Fulcher sent out to some of his constituents, asking them for their opinions on state Superintendent Tom Luna’s education reforms.
One question shows that 76 percent of his respondents would not accept a tax increase in order to maintain the current education system.
However, in May 2009, the Kuna school district conducted a highly scientific — and binding — poll of the residents within the school district. In that poll, 62 percent of respondents reported that they wanted their taxes raised in order to maintain the current education system. The poll? The election for a two-year $1.1 million per year supplemental levy, which raised taxes in order to maintain the current education system.
I am reminded of Pauline Kael’s alleged quote that she didn’t know anyone who voted for Nixon after his landslide presidential victory, a testament to the liberal elitism of the time. So, too, should politicians make sure they are listening to ALL of their constituents, not just the ones who tell them what they want to hear. And they would be wise to avoid suggesting that everyone is simply being unduly influenced by the teachers union.