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April 23, 2014

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Ruling clears School District initiative for inclusion on November ballot

Updated Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012 | 4:15 p.m.

The Clark County School District's tax initiative for school maintenance and renovations will remain on the November ballot, the Nevada Supreme Court affirmed Thursday.

The state's highest court upheld a lower court's ruling last month that denied the Nevada Policy Research Institute's request for a preliminary injunction barring the School District's tax question from going before voters this fall.

The Supreme Court ruled the decision to grant or deny the preliminary injunction was within the jurisdiction of Clark County District Judge Valorie Vega.

"Having reviewed the trial record and considered the parties' statements … we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying (NPRI's) motion for a preliminary injunction," the court ruled. "Accordingly, we affirm the district court's order."

The School District is seeking a six-year capital levy that would raise $669 million to fund high-need school maintenance and renovation projects. The property tax increase represents an additional $74 per $100,000 of assessed home value.

The ballot initiative was approved by the School Board and the Clark County Debt Management Commission. However, NPRI – a local libertarian think tank – sued the commission and the School District in early August, alleging the commission failed to take public comment before approving the ballot measure.

"It's in CCSD's right to put (the tax initiative) up to voters, but it needs to follow the law," NPRI spokesman Victor Joecks said on Wednesday, after the court heard oral arguments.

Joecks maintained the Supreme Court ruled not on the merits of NPRI's overall case on the alleged open meeting law violation, but rather on the nonprofit's motion to strike the tax question off the ballot. A lower court will still have to rule on NPRI's case, he said.

"This case is just beginning," Joecks said.

Joyce Haldeman, the School District's assistant superintendent of community and government relations, said she was "thrilled" and "delighted" with the Supreme Court ruling.

The issue of school maintenance is important to put before voters, Haldeman said, pointing to recent spate of air-conditioning breakdowns that caused one elementary school to close Wednesday. Haldeman is confident a lower court will rule that NPRI's overall case isn't "valid," but is a political tactic that seeks to derail the district's tax initiative on a technicality, she said.

"The need for this is so severe, it would have been a travesty to the children of Clark County" if the ballot question didn't go through, Haldeman said. "Let the voters make the decision."

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