School levies appear to violate state election law

Two school levies in Tuesday’s election appear to violate a new Idaho election law geared toward voter transparency.

Ballot levy requests from the Lake Pend Oreille and Swan Valley school districts do not include language outlining the measures’ expected financial impacts on local taxpayers. Lawmakers last year passed a law requiring districts to include an estimated breakdown of a measure’s cost per $100,000 of taxable assessed property values.

“It looks like we dropped the ball,” said Swan Valley Superintendent Michael Jacobson, adding that the district did not intend to mislead voters.

Lake Pend Oreille Superintendent Tom Albertson did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Lake Pend Oreille is asking for an indefinite supplemental levy of $12.7 million per year. Swan Valley is seeking a five-year, $500,000 plant facilities levy.

Jacobson blamed the issue, in part, on a communications breakdown between the district and the county. He apologized to patrons but said he expected Bonneville County elections officials to catch the missing language.

Bonneville County Clerk Penny Manning told EdNews that districts are expected to have the ballot language correct before filing a measure with the county.

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Idaho Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck told EdNews that he reviewed the apparent violation with Brian Kane, the deputy attorney general assigned to the secretary of state’s office. The missing language does not automatically invalidate Tuesday’s election results, Kane said, according to Houck, but the mistake does open the door to legal challenges from patrons in either or both districts.

Swan Valley estimated its levy at an annual cost of $42.32 per $100,000 of taxable value, according to the district. Lake Pend Oreille’s estimated impact on property owners comes to $214.32 per $100,000.

Click here to view Lake Pend Oreille’s measure and here for Swan Valley’s.

Swan Valley is located in East Idaho, about 40 miles east of Idaho Falls. The Lake Pend Oreille School District is located in Ponderay, some 50 miles north of Coeur d’Alene.

Idaho EdNews data analyst Randy Schrader contributed information to this story. 

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