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Archive for Thursday, March 27, 2003

AG joins school finance debate

Kline will file actions to support use of local sales tax

March 27, 2003

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— Atty. Gen. Phill Kline is going to court to defend the state's school finance laws and the right of counties to use sales tax revenue to assist school districts.

Kline said Wednesday his office would seek to intervene in a lawsuit by Wyandotte County school officials against the Johnson County Commission.

At issue is whether counties can increase their sales taxes and use the new revenue to improve public schools or community colleges as an "economic development measure."

Wyandotte County officials filed suit after Johnson County voters recently raised their sales tax to generate about $45.2 million over three years for six school districts. A Johnson County judge is expected to rule within 30 days.

"The suit states that such action violates the scheme of school finance laws, is not supported by the statute and infers some type of constitutional infirmity to the statute," Kline said. "I differ."

In a separate case, Kline plans to ask the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to excuse the state from mandatory mediation in a lawsuit about Kansas' 1992 school finance law.

Federal courts require parties to attempt to resolve lawsuits before going to trial. But Kline said mediation would be fruitless in this case because resolving it would require legislative action.

While he would defend the state's school finance laws, Kline said he was not opposed to legislators or the governor finding a solution for plaintiffs without mediation.

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