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Sublette County School District Number Nine v. McBride

December 19, 2008

SUBLETTE COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT NUMBER NINE, STATE OF WYOMING AND SUBLETTE COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT NUMBER ONE, STATE OF WYOMING, APPELLANTS (PLAINTIFFS), AND CAMPBELL COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT NUMBER ONE, STATE OF WYOMING; FREMONT COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 24, STATE OF WYOMING; AND LINCOLN COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT NUMBER ONE, STATE OF WYOMING, APPELLANTS (INTERVENING PLAINTIFFS),
v.
JIM MCBRIDE, STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, APPELLEE (DEFENDANT).



W.R.A.P. 11 Certified Question from the District Court of Sublette County The Honorable Nancy J. Guthrie, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Donnell, District Judge

Before VOIGT, C.J., and GOLDEN, KITE, and BURKE JJ; DONNELL, D.J.

[¶1]Appellants, five Wyoming school districts, filed a declaratory judgment action questioning the continued constitutionality of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 21-13-102(c) (LexisNexis Supp. 2006), following an amendment to Wyoming Constitution, Article 15, Section 17 (the 2006 Amendment), passed during the 2006 General Election. More specifically, those districts seek a ruling that the 2006 Amendment authorized, but did not mandate, the Wyoming Legislature to repeal or amend § 21-13-102(c) (2006). The statute was not amended for a period of sixteen (16) months after the Amendment‟s effective date, and the districts argue that § 21-13-102(c) (2006) remained in effect during that time.

[¶2] Depending upon the conclusion as to the constitutionality of § 21-13-102(c) (2006), the school districts also ask for a declaration that any change in the law caused by the implied repeal of § 21-13-102(c) (2006) cannot be applied retroactively. They assert this retroactive application would be an unconstitutional ex post facto application of the law.

CERTIFIED QUESTIONS

[¶3] At the request of the parties, the district court presented the following certified questions to this Court for consideration:

1. Is WYO. STAT. ANN. § 21-13-102(c) [(2006)] [constitutional] in light of the amendment to Article 15, Section 17 of the Wyoming Constitution?

2. Do ex post facto principles impact the Wyoming Department of Education‟s (Department) calculation of rebated revenue if the districts have encumbered, obligated, or spent any of the funds sought by the Department?

RELEVANT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

[¶4] In Washakie County School District Number One v. Herschler, 606 P.2d 310 (Wyo. 1980), this Court declared Wyoming‟s local wealth-based scheme of educational financing unconstitutional. We determined that the financing system then in place failed to provide equal educational funding statewide in violation of the Wyoming Constitution, Article 1, Section 34, and Article 7, Section 1, requiring a "uniform system of public instruction." Id. at 340.

[¶5] In response, the electors of the State of Wyoming, at the General Election of 1982, then amended Wyoming Constitution, Article 15, Section 17 to provide:

There shall be levied each year in each county of the state a tax of not to exceed six mills on the dollar of the assessed valuation of the property in each county for the support and maintenance of the public schools. This tax shall be collected by the county treasurer and disbursed among the school districts within the county as the legislature shall provide. The legislature may authorize boards of trustees of school districts to levy a special tax on the property of the district. The legislature may also provide for the distribution among one or more school districts of not more than three-fourths of any revenue from the special school district property tax in excess of a state average yield, which shall be calculated each year, per average daily membership.

Wyo. Const. art. 15, ยง 17 (Michie Cumm. Supp. 1983) (the 1982 ...


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