Ketchikan plans lawsuit over school funding

KETCHIKAN — Ketchikan officials say the state of Alaska is unconstitutionally penalizing boroughs by requiring they provide a set limit of property taxes to local school districts.

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly voted 4-3 Monday to begin crafting a lawsuit against the state, the Ketchikan Daily News reported.

The borough will also seek the participation of other governmental bodies in the lawsuit, but borough Manager Dan Brockhorst said their participation is not required for the lawsuit.

The state requires all organized boroughs to provide a certain level of the property taxes collected to local school districts.

Some on the assembly see that as an unconstitutional requirement that goes against promises made by the state not to penalize areas of the state forced to incorporate.

The case could take years to resolve. Robert Hicks, a contracted attorney hired by the borough to look into the matter, said the borough could win the case against the state, but only if the assembly has the “will to prevail.”

A message to the state Department of Law seeking comment wasn’t immediately returned Tuesday to The Associated Press.

The assembly had tabled the vote last month after borough attorney Scott Brandt-Erichsen said he didn’t have the same level of confidence in the lawsuit as the consultant or the city manager.

Brockhorst, in a memo to the assembly, listed 18 claims that support a lawsuit. Brandt-Erichsen said the city has a “fair to good chance” of success on three claims related to a dedicated tax, but is less optimistic on the other 15.

Before Monday’s decision to move forward with the lawsuit, the assembly voted 4-3 to remove $150,000 for litigation. Brockhorst said that will come back before the assembly next month.

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