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Judge Rejects Suit Seeking School District Tax Authority

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to allow a Kansas school district to raise local taxes beyond what the state school finance system permits.

A group of parents and students in the Shawnee Mission school district, in the Kansas City suburbs, sued state officials, arguing that the "local option budget cap" that limits the funds a district may raise locally discriminates against wealthier districts in violation of the 14th Amendment's equal-protection and due-process clauses.

U.S. District Judge John W. Lungstrum of Kansas City, Kan., ruled that because the local option budget cap could not be severed from the rest of the state's school-finance law, ruling against it would strike down the state's entire school-finance system. The plaintiffs' goal could not be redressed by striking down the entire scheme, and thus they lacked standing to bring their suit.

The judge also said there was no other authority in Kansas law allowing a school district to raise taxes locally.

"Plaintiffs have not shown that their school district possesses any authority, outside of the [school finance] act, to impose local taxes," Judge Lungstrum said in his March 11 decision in Petrella v. Brownback.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs indicated in Kansas newspapers that the ruling would be appealed.

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