Sarpy County District Court Judge Rules Learning Community Common Levy Unconstitutional
November 28, 2011 by Matthew V. Rusch
Sarpy County District Court Judge William Zastera ruled that a property tax levy imposed by the Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties is unconstitutional as a violation of the Nebraska Constitution in a suit brought by Sarpy County landowners represented by Erickson|Sederstrom. Judge Zastera ruled that the common property tax levy violates a constitutional provision that prohibits the imposition of property taxes for a state purpose. The unique facts of the case arose from legislation passed by the Nebraska Legislature during 2006 and 2007, which authorized creation of the Learning Community and the tax levy that was challenged in court. Judge Zastera found that the property tax levy was imposed for the state purpose of equalization of aid to education. Plaintiffs Ron Woodle, John Knapp, and the Sarpy County Farm Bureau argued that the property taxes levied by the Learning Community were for all practical purposes imposed by the State of Nebraska because they generate property tax revenue in Douglas and Sarpy Counties, put the revenue into a "pot" of money and then distribute that money directly to area school districts through a formula written by the Legislature.
The landowners also argued that the tax levy violated two other provisions of the Nebraska Constitution, but the judge did not rule on those arguments due to his decision about the "state purpose" argument.
The principal defendants in the matter, the Learning Community, Omaha Public Schools and the Bellevue Public Schools are appealing the decision to the Nebraska Supreme Court.
Relevant Areas of Expertise
Erickson | Sederstrom's Litigation Division is comprised of Nebraska trial attorneys who represent clients in civil lawsuits involving matters ranging from personal injury claims to complex commercial contract claims.