The Auditor of State’s office (“AOS”) released its long-awaited levy guidance, which is available for download here. Limitations on activities related to levy and bond issues is a topic that has caused Districts and District officials and employees confusion for some time, but questions surrounding acceptable activities have become even more precarious in recent years with the criminal prosecution of board of education members and administrators. While a bright line test for compliance still does not exist, the release of the AOS guidance document, provides school employees and officials a better idea of how to avoid and address challenges to District practices.
The guidance document addresses a variety of topics including acceptable activities, interactions with levy committees, school district communications, use of school district property, and surveys. Quite a bit of gray area still exists when it comes to levy-related activities, necessitating careful evaluation before acting, but the guidance provides some clarity regarding existing standards and the AOS’s likely approach to challenged practices. The guidance provides that school board members have more leeway to engage in levy-related activities considering the limitations on times when board of education members are compensated to serve in their roles. The guidance also emphasizes that public officials and employees bear the burden of illustrating that any activities undertaken outside of their official positions are done on their own time and with their own funds, further offering suggestions for how this can be established. In light of the standards highlighted in the guidance, it is clear that school district administrators are in the most difficult position when it comes to establishing that activities are done on the administrator’s own time and with the administrator’s own funds. As a result, school districts and public officials and employees, in particular school district administrators, must continue to take caution to ensure compliance with applicable limitations and standards.
Weston Hurd will provide additional details and resources regarding levy limitations and recommendations, including opportunities to hear more from our attorneys regarding implementation of the guidance. In the meantime, should you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to any of our education law attorneys to discuss this guidance and resulting recommendations.
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Weston Hurd LLP attorneys regularly assist school districts in all aspects of school law. For further information please contact Megan E. Greulich at firstname.lastname@example.org or any of the education law attorneys.