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Two citizen questions came up regarding pending MVSD Levy:

1) Can Charter schools run levies? YES and NO…


2) Does the pending MSVD levy ballot satisfy the new disclosure law?

First charter schools:  Idaho Code Section 33-802 expressly PERMITScharter schools DISTRICTS to run levies.

“33-802.  SCHOOL LEVIES. (6)  A charter district may levy for maintenance and operations if such authority is contained within its charter. “

However, a charter SCHOOL at this time cannot.

Idaho Code Section 33-5207 

REQUIREMENTS AND PROHIBITIONS OF A PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL. (1) In addition to any other requirements imposed in this chapter, a public charter school shall be nonsectarian in its programs, affiliations, admission policies, employment practices, and all other operations, shall not charge tuition, levy taxes or issue bonds, and shall not discriminate against any student on any basis prohibited by the federal or state constitution or any federal, state or local law.

What is the difference between a charter school and a charter school district? The law does NOT say. It defines a charter school and they cannot as of now, run levies. As noted this can change any time. They already get most of the same finding as public schools including, per Idaho Code Section 33-5208

(1)  Per student support.

(2)  Special education. 

(3)  Alternative school support

(4)  Transportation support. 

(5)  Facilities funds. 

As far as levies this is very fishy – just like all government budgets and laws – who can read them? (see question 2) and who can trust them? Especially when divided and confused – FOR EXAMPLE per the State, they budgeted 2.7 BILLION to K-12 education this year. Per the State, the TOTAL levies in all districts equal about $300 MILLION.

That is just over 10% of the budget – of course the money is not all equal in every district (and that is a major flaw in the levy system) Our district claims the levy is close to 30% of their budget – HUGE difference if true…

BOTTOM LINE – under current law an entire school district CANNOT go charter. But let’s assume there are, say 5 schools in a district and they all go charter –  then what? The law doesn’t say but I’m betting now they are a “Charter District” and are already authorized to run levies under state law.

Secondly another good citizen question:

Does the MSVD levy BALLOT satisfy the new disclosure law? Everyone complained that no school district ever told us WHAT THE LEVY PAYS FOR.

The Legislature made an attempt to address this in 2022 and passed this new law:

33-802B.  DISCLOSURES IN ELECTIONS TO AUTHORIZE SUPPLEMENTAL LEVY. (1) At an election to authorize a levy pursuant to section 33-802(3) or (5), Idaho Code, the ballot shall include a disclosure, separate from the ballot question, of the purposes for which the levy revenues will be used. The disclosure shall:

(a)  Be set forth in simple, understandable language;

(b)  Include a detailed description of the purposes for which the levy revenues will be used and the approximate amount of levy funds to be allocated for each purpose, such that school district electors have fair notice of the specific items the levy revenues shall support; and

(c)  Be placed immediately above the ballot question on the ballot.

(2)  In order to be binding, a ballot question to authorize a levy pursuant to section 33-802(3) or (5), Idaho Code, must be accompanied by the disclosure described in subsection (1) of this section, as well as any other disclosure or information required by law.

(3)  Upon a determination by a court pursuant to section 34-2001A, Idaho Code, that a school district failed to comply with the provisions of this section, the court must declare the outcome of the ballot question invalid and award court costs and fees to the prevailing party.

The procedure for contesting if this new requirement was met is set forth in Idaho Code Section 34-2001A as follows 

2)  When the validity of any bond or levy election is contested…the plaintiff or plaintiffs must, within forty (40) days after the votes are canvassed and the results thereof declared, file in the proper court a verified written complaint setting forth, in addition to the other requirements of this chapter, the following:

(a)  The name of the party contesting the bond or levy election, and that he is an elector of the public entity conducting the bond or levy election;

(b)  The proposition or propositions voted on at the election that are contested; and

(c)  The particular grounds of such contest.

So the good news is you don’t have to contest a levy in advance or, of course, if it fails. If it passes then you have 40 days to contest it by filing a complaint. So any such complaint would allege that the district failed to comply with the new law, because it failed to

 “…set forth in simple, understandable language… a detailed description of the purposes for which the levy revenues will be used and the approximate amount of levy funds to be allocated for each purpose, such that school district electors have fair notice of the specific items the levy revenues shall support…

Many patrons complained that the school district ever told us WHAT THE LEVY PAYS FOR. So again, Does the MSVD levy BALLOT satisfy the new disclosure law?This is a reasonable question. I retrieved a copy of the ballot- attached here and which is prefaced as follows:

“The Board of Trustees of School District No. 244, Idaho County, State of Idaho, is seeking authorization to levy a Supplemental Levy for the following purposes and approximate amount to levy funds to be allocated to each use”

There follows a chart which sets forth 11 line items of funding. Objectively viewed it can be reasonably said to provide an adequate “allocation” of funds as required by the law. However, IMO it falls short of the mark with regard to a “detailed description of the purposes…” I say this because the monies requested are set forth as general budget line items and provide no “details.”

If I had been tasked to write the notice I would have done much more. I do not believe this level of information is really adequate for anyone to make a decision based on this disclosure. Of course, anyone who opposes or supports the levy “on principle” wouldn’t care. However, for many of us, we do want to know “what the levy pays for” and in good faith I can say I still do not know, and such questions persisted in every public levy meeting.

In addition the ballot itself describes the disclosure as given in “approximate amounts.” I suppose this is OK for the allocation part but does not provide “a detailed description of the purposes” of any “approximate” line item. So to summarize these are the two legal/factual questions:

1) Did the ballot give adequate “notice of the specific items?”

“Specific” means “clearly defined or identified; stated explicitly or in detail

2) Did the ballot provide a “detailed description of the purposes?”

“Detailed” means “having many details or facts; showing attention to detail; extended treatment of or attention to particular items.”

In fairness I can see question one answered either yes or no. The ballot does contain 11 (arguably) reasonably “specific” line items. As to question 2 I think the answer is more likely no. I see no facts, no attention to neither detail, nor any extended treatment or attention to any of the particular items listed. In fact I see the same meaningless budget lines items which have been copied and pasted over and over for every budget meeting. So I, for one, could see a court agreeing with that the ballot did NOT adequately provide a “detailed description” of the purposes of the levy.

That said, courts are not friendly to WE THE PEOPLE. Sadly the courts have been weaponized against the public in favor of institutions and the Legislature also protects its own. This is shown by a key provision of this new law: Section 3 which provides for an award of “…costs and fees to the prevailing party.” This may seem innocuous or even a benefit to the public but it is NOT. The key is FEES – this means ATTORNEY FEES, which these days are outrageous. You bring a lawsuit and lose you have to pay THEIR attorney fees along with your own. This is a major deterrent. Are you surprised?

By way of background, under long standing law, Idaho (and most states) say that all parties bear their own FEES unless they agree by in a private contract to that (which is common) OR as provided by statute. The fee statutes used to be few and far between and rationally applied, but are WAY more common nowadays. So here is how it works – if a patron sues the district and LOSES they could face a crippling award of fees – realistically such an award would be minimum $30,000.

One the other hand if a patron wants to hire an attorney (good luck with that) then they will have to shell out perhaps $10,000 just to get started, OK well maybe some patrons can bring the case “pro se” and be effective – that is what I would do. But then you have NO fees to recover and are still exposed to the fees of the District – which BTW will hire a lawyer at public expense that becomes your personal expense if you lose. So you can see how that works against WE THE PEOPLE.

That said who knows what a judge will say? Personally I do not believe this disclosure is adequate – not even close IMO. But I quit practice because judges and courts are a crap shoot, and they tend to support other institutions over citizens regardless of the law or the facts. Just ask yourself – can you see a local judge invalidating a levy that passed? To me a yes on this is maybe 50-50. Which again would be fine EXCEPT for the downside of a fee award. So there you have it….


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