Lane wins 53 cents in school tax suit

Thursday, May 20, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:05 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Columbia Board of Education will decide what to do today after the Missouri Court of Appeals sided against it Tuesday in a case concerning property tax levies.

The lead plaintiff, Henry Lane, said he was happy with the decision.

“It’s wonderful,” Lane said. “It’s been a long time since I had a win.”

Lane stands to receive 53 cents.

A three-judge panel ruled that school districts cannot set property tax levies to raise more local revenue than required by their budgets.

Lane, who has come up short six times in his bid for a school board seat, originally filed the lawsuit in November 2001 in Boone County Circuit Court, claiming that the school board set a property tax about 8 cents higher than state law allows.

If the decision stands, Lane and eight other plaintiffs are due a collective refund of $77.52 on the taxes they paid to the Columbia School District for the 2001-02 budget year. The school board amended its agenda for today’s meeting to include a report on the court’s decision and legal recommendation to determine their next step.

“The board will make a decision based on legal recommendations,” said Phyllis Chase, Columbia Public Schools superintendent.

Lane was not happy with the court’s decision to deny the suit class-action status, which would require the district to return all overpayments on property tax bills, an amount Lane estimates near $1 million. He discussed appealing to the state Supreme Court, as well as asking the school district to voluntarily refund the money to taxpayers. Taxpayers may also apply for a refund at the county collector’s office, Lane said.

“I’d like to find some way to get the million to property owners with no further litigation,” Lane said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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