Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Ballot flub costs more than taxpayer dollars

by Daily Inter Lake
| May 14, 2023 12:00 AM

The West Valley School Board’s botched levy request this spring sowed mistrust and potentially long-lasting damages within the district west of Kalispell. Too much is at stake to let the blunder go unnoticed.

Daily Inter Lake education reporter Hilary Matheson details the canceled election in today’s front page story. The levy request for $300,000 in funding was called off in April after the school board embarrassingly missed a critical filing deadline — but not before ballots were delivered to area mailboxes. This caused mass confusion among voters, some who were eventually informed about the election cancellation via a text message from the school, and others who received no personal notification whatsoever.

The ballot flub ultimately cost the school more than $3,100. And while it’s never good to flush taxpayer money down the drain, it’s far more concerning that the error puts in jeopardy public trust that the board and district can be counted on to competently conduct future elections.

West Valley is a thriving school in one of the fastest growing areas of the county. It sorely needs adequate funding to maintain expected services and keep up with the increasing demands.

Levy and bond requests are extremely difficult to pass — it was just last year that West Valley voters rejected a $27 million bond for school renovations and a new middle school.

The funding is needed. Unfortunately, not only has the school board wasted this opportunity to retain necessary financing for day-to-day educational resources, it has decided that because of the election cancellation it won’t run another levy request until next school year in order to avoid further confusion.

Mistakes happen, but they can’t be brushed aside. West Valley administrators and the school board must review its internal processes and learn from the oversight before organizing another election. Communication must be improved, and public confidence regained.

West Valley is no longer the rural outpost of old. This booming area deserves — needs — a school board and school administrators who are laser focused and ready to lead the way forward. Anything less is a disservice to the school’s teachers and staff, and families who proudly call West Valley home.

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