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Board of Education of Fayette County v. Board of Education of Lexington Independent School Dist.

June 20, 1952

BOARD OF EDUCATION OF FAYETTE COUNTY ET AL.
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF LEXINGTON INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DIST. ET AL.



Cullen

CULLEN, Commissioner. This appeal raises a number of questions growing out of an election in the Fayette County School District, on April 14, 1951, at which the voters approved the levy of a special school building fund tax, under KRS 160.477.

The primary question is whether property which was located in the county school district at the time the tax was voted, and which subsequently is transferred to the City of Lexington Independent School District by proceedings under KRS 160.045, will remain liable for the voted tax during the 20-year period for which the tax was voted. Involved in this question is the question of whether KRS 160.045 is constitutional. The circuit court held that KRS 160.045 is constitutional, and the Board of Education of Fayette County appeals from that holding. The circuit court further held that property transferred to the city school district, pursuant to KRS 160.045, will remain liable for the voted tax, and there is an appeal from that holding by the city school board and by certain property owners who are parties in a representative capacity.

A further question, in the event it should be held that property transferred to the city school district is not liable for the voted tax, is whether the city school district itself should be held liable, under KRS 160.065, for a proportionate part of revenue bonds that may be issued by the county school district in reliance on the voted tax. The circuit court found it unnecessary to pass on this question, in view of its holding on the primary question.

A number of other questions were raised and passed on in the circuit court, but for reasons stated at the end of this opinion, we think those questions were not properly subject to determination in this case.

We will consider, first, the matter of the constitutionality of KRS 160.045. This statute provides, in substance, that when territory located in a county school district has been annexed to a city, 75 percent of the owners of real property in the territory may petition the city school board to be taken into the city school district, and if the city school board approves the petition, the territory will be transferred to the city school district, regardless of whether the county school board approves the transfer. Mr. J. Harry Stamper, an intervenor in this case on behalf of the children of the Fayette County School District, contends that the statute does vest some control in the county school board, and that the courts cannot compel a transfer of territory to the city school district where the county school board has valid reasons for opposing the transfer; but we do not so construe the statute.

In Board of Education of Kenton County v. Mescher, 310 Ky. 453, 220 S.W.2d 1016, this Court held KRS 160.045 to be constitutional, as against the contention that it violated sections 51, 59(29) and 60 of the Kentucky Constitution. The appellant Fayette County Board of Education, in the case now before us, maintains that the statute violates sections 2, 19, 52 and 183 of the Constitution.

The argument that the statute violates sections 2 and 183 of the Constitution is based on the theory that the statute deprives the boards of education of their responsibility for the school system, and vests absolute and arbitrary power in the property owners. We do not concur in this view. Actually, the city school board exercises complete control as to whether the territory shall become a part of the city school district. The property owners are given no power to effect a transfer; they are merely permitted to file a petition expressing their wishes. The situation is the same as if the city school district was given power to annex territory in the county school district, subject to a favorable vote of 75% of the property owners in the territory. For many years the statutes have authorized a city to annex all or part of the territory of another city, subject to approval of the voters (see KRS 81.120, 81.150, 81.160, 81.190, 81.200, 81.240, 81.250), and such statutes have been held valid. Pence v. City of Frankfort, 101 Ky. 534, 41 S.W. 1011.

As we pointed out in Board of Education of Kenton County v. Mescher, 310 Ky. 453, 220 S.W.2d 1016, school districts are creatures of the legislature, and the legislature has the power under section 183 of the Constitution, to alter them or even do away with them entirely. We are of the opinion that KRS 160.045 does not violate section 2 or section 183 of the Constitution, notwithstanding that the county school district is given no voice in the loss of its territory.

The argument that KRS 160.045 violates sections 19 and 52 of the Constitution is based on the theory that the voting of the building fund tax created a contractual indebtedness on the part of the property owners of the county school district, and that if the property is permitted to escape the tax by becoming a part of the city school district, the obligation of contracts will be impaired in violation of section 19 and indebtedness will be released or extinguished in violation of section 52. For reasons that will hereinafter be stated, we are of the opinion that the voting of the tax did not create an indebtedness for the amount of levies to be made in the future.

We hold that KRS 160.045 is constitutional.

As stated at the outset of this opinion, the primary question on this appeal is whether property transferred to the city school district will remain liable for the special school building fund tax, during the 20-year period for which the tax was voted. The question relates only to tax levies made after the transfer has been effected, it being agreed by all parties that transferred property will be liable for any tax levy actually made before the transfer.

The tax was voted in the Fayette County School District at an election held on April 14, 1951. The question of voting the tax was submitted to the voters under KRS 160.477, enacted in 1950, which provides, in part:

'(1) (a) Upon request of the board of education of any school district, the tax levying authority of the district shall adopt an ordinance or resolution submitting to the qualified voters of the district, the question as to whether a special school building tax rate of not less than five cents nor more than fifty cents as requested by the board shall be levied on each one hundred dollars of property subject to local taxation. This tax levy shall be in addition to the maximum school tax levy provided by KRS 160.475. The income from the tax shall be used for the purchase or lease of school sites and buildings, for the erection and complete equipping of new school buildings, for the major alteration, enlargement and complete equipping of existing buildings, for the purpose of retiring, directly or through rental payments, school revenue bonds issued for such ...


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