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Archive for Thursday, July 8, 2004

Appeals court hears school sales tax case

Johnson County funding challenged

July 8, 2004

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— An attorney for four Wyandotte County school districts told the state Court of Appeals on Wednesday that a Johnson County sales tax dedicated to education was unconstitutional and caused irreparable harm to students.

The case, though not directly related, was a preview of arguments to be made Aug. 30 before the Kansas Supreme Court about the constitutionality of the state's school finance system and the ability of school districts to provide all children with a suitable education.

Patricia Brannan, an attorney for the Wyandotte County schools and parents who filed the lawsuit, asked the court to reverse a Johnson County District Court ruling allowing the distribution of approximately $42 million over three years in sales tax revenue to Johnson County schools.

Brannan said allowing the tax put Wyandotte County schools at a competitive disadvantage and denied students there an education as good as the one for students across the county line. It's also unfair to poorer districts that lack the economic base to enact a similar levy, she said.

"This simply cannot be squared with the school finance law," Brannan said.

The Wyandotte County school districts filed the lawsuit in March 2003, attempting to block Johnson County from using a voter-approved countywide sales tax to benefit schools. The quarter-percent sales tax was approved in 2002 and is scheduled to last three years.

Joe Hatley, an attorney for the Johnson County school districts, said every county was permitted to give funds to schools to improve the economic climate, if voters approved.

Appeals Judge Lee Johnson said the sales tax revenues appeared no different from a grant by a county to a business to lure that business into the county.

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