A group of parents in Johnson County Unified School District 512 has filed a federal suit asking that the local district be allowed to raise the property tax levy.

The suit, filed in federal court in Kansas City, seeks to have the Kansas law limiting the property tax revenue that can be realized by a school district declared unconstitutional. Under the law, the levy can raise no more than 31% of the district's annual state aid.

The case is not related to a lawsuit by a consortium of school districts that seeks to restore cuts in state aid to public education due to unexpected and prolonged declines in tax revenue.

The plaintiffs said they would be willing to pay higher taxes to prevent school closures, but the state law does not allow the district to raise their property tax rate.

The district in the Kansas City suburbs has cut $20 million from its current budget due to reductions in state aid, but more cuts will be needed next year.

Trustees are considering a plan to reduce operating costs by closing three schools.

An attorney for the parents said the relatively affluent Shawnee Mission district receives proportionally less from the state because property tax values are high.

The Johnson County district is in the lowest 11% of schools in state funding because property tax values are higher than in most Kansas districts.

The suit was filed against Gov. Mark Parkinson, the Kansas State Board of Education, and several state officials.

The Board of Ed has asked to be removed from the suit. Chairwoman Janet Waugh said the board oversees the revenue limit but has no legal or constitutional authority to alter or amend the lawful budget cap. Only the Legislature can do so, she said.

Johnson County USD 512's $260 million of general obligation debt is rated Aa1 by Moody's Investors Service.

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