Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Back to the Drawing Chalk Board

A court in Texas ruled today that the current funding cap for school district taxes is unconstitutional. Personally, I just don't get it. I re-read the article twice and couldn't find anything I thought unconstitutional at all. I'll have to ask around for some more clarity from my lawyer friends tomorrow.

From the Houston Chronicle:

The high court held 7-1 that the $1.50 per $100 valuation cap on local school maintenance taxes amounts to an unconstitutional statewide property tax because many school districts are at or near the limit.

In the majority opinion, Justice Nathan Hecht noted that the Supreme Court, in a previous school finance case, ruled that an "ad valorem (property) tax is a state tax ...when the state so completely controls the levy, assessment and disbursement of revenue, either directly or indirectly, that the authority employed (by local districts) is without meaningful discretion."

If I take the article at face value, I get a muddled train of thought:

1. The legislature sets a tax cap that all school districts must obey.

2. The school districts can't raise taxes as high as they want. They start to reach their peak and are forced to make budget cuts.

3. The school districts complain that the tax cap is excessive control of their tax domain and a judge agrees with them. Pretty much the districts went to court and complained about every single problem in their districts and blamed the lack of solution on their inability to spend more money. (See quote above.) The judge somehow declares that it is now really a state tax, that is, a tax in the power of the state and not in the power of the school districts.

4. Once that train of thought is begun, the judges later declare this kind of tax unconstitutional.

5. Therefore, we're back at square one again.

I promise to find out more info about this strange logic tomorrow.

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