D91 elementary school levy declared illegal and voided by district judge - East Idaho News

D91 elementary school levy declared illegal and voided by district judge

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IDAHO FALLS — An Ada County District Judge issued an order on Wednesday voiding the latest Idaho Falls School District 91 plant facilities levy.

Voters overwhelmingly passed the 10-year $33 million levy in May to build a new elementary school on the south side of Idaho Falls.

According to Bonneville County Prosecuting Attorney Randy Neal, the court “adopted the determination by the Idaho State Tax Commission that Idaho Falls School District 91 could not have a second plant facilities levy until a similar levy passed in 2022 expires.”

RELATED | Voters approve $33 million levy in District 91 to build new elementary school

Idaho law says districts can have one levy fund. At that time, the district and its legal counsel interpreted that to mean the district could have two plant levies – one for the new school and one that has been used for the maintenance of schools – if the levies both go into one fund.

However, in August, the Tax Commission challenged that interpretation.

RELATED | District 91 clashes with tax commission over funding for new elementary school

District 91’s Board of Trustees filed a complaint with the courts “seeking a declaration of the interpretation of the statutes in question,” the board said in a news release at the time.

Karla LaOrange of D91
Superintendent Karla LaOrange | EastIdahoNews.com file photo

On Wednesday, the court issued a decision that was not in the district’s favor.

“When the entire statute is read as a whole, the plain language of (the law) provides there can only be one levy at a time,” District Judge James Cawthorn stated in the summary judgment. “Therefore, the 2023 levy brought prior to the expiration of the 2022 levy is unauthorized.”

As a result, Neal was required to set aside the levy.

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“We appreciate the court making this decision so quickly,” Neal said in a news release. “There would have been a substantial financial impact on the county if we would have been required to change tax notices, which are due next week.”

In a statement to EastIdahoNews.com, D91 spokeswoman Margaret Wimborne says the district is “very disappointed” in the court’s ruling.

“D91’s parents and patrons clearly supported this levy as a way to address the district’s ongoing facilities issues. It passed with almost 70 percent of the vote,” the statement said. “It’s frustrating that the directive of our local taxpayers has been challenged by the Idaho Idaho Tax Commission and dismissed by the courts.”

The Board of Trustees will meet soon to discuss next steps and “is committed to addressing its critical facilities issues and ensuring that every student in Idaho Falls School District 91 can learn in an environment that is safe and meets their needs,” the statement says.

Neal emphasized that his office has not and will not take any position on the merits of any bond or levy issue.