PONDERAY, Idaho — A lawsuit over ballot language on a Lake Pend Oreille School District levy vote appears to be moving forward.
While a non-profit citizens group says the lawsuit against the school district could be settled next month, online records show a trial date has been set for late April.
Last November, voters in the Sandpoint-based district narrowly approved a $12.7 million permanent levy. The vote, which passed at just over 51 percent, according to local reports, followed a supplemental levy vote in March 2019 for the same amount.
Proponents of the permanent levy vote argued that the measure would provide essential funding for third of the district's staff along with athletics and extracurricular activities.
In the November vote, however, proponents of the lawsuit argue the Lake Pend Oreille School District failed to legally state the individual cost and impacts of the levy to taxpayers on the ballot.
The suit, which was filed in Bonner County District court by local resident Don Skinner in December, seeks to challenge the outcome of the levy vote and asks the court to invalidate the election, according to the Bonner County Daily Bee.
According to Idaho law, levy election ballots must contain language laying out the cost of proposed levies to individual tax payers. Idaho House Bill 103, which took effect last summer, says ballots must contain a statement in the form of "A tax of $ per one hundred thousand dollars of taxable assessed value, per year, based on current conditions."
The LPOSD ballot didn't contain such a statement, said Idaho Tax Watch, a non-profit Bonner County group that was supporting Skinner's suit.
“The district put forth an illegal ballot and basically admitted it when they ran the levy question in November, and instead of re-running a corrected ballot, they amazingly have snubbed their noses at the voters,” said Idaho Tax Watch spokesman Jason Giddings in a press release.
According to the Bonner County Daily Bee, the school district described the lack of a statement disclosing the annual cost of the levy as a "technical error." LPOSD acted in good faith, the paper reported, and opted to fight the lawsuit to protect the will of the voters.
LPOSD staff were not available for comment on Monday due to the holiday.
Idaho Tax Watch stated that the group took exception to LPOSD solidifying its efforts to fight the lawsuit. The district had allotted roughly $10,000 the day after the election to go towards legal fees in defense of their actions, said ITW, citing public records requests.
"Public school districts are required to follow the law, and we expect them to teach our children the values of honesty and doing the right thing. To many of us, the district’s doubling down and spending of our money to defend a law violation is just sending the wrong moral signal to our community and to our children," read a statement from Giddings.
ITW said the lawsuit "could be settled in March." For now, court records show a trial has been set in Bonner County District Court for April 28. A motion for judgement on pleadings hearing was also slated for March 4.