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A Northern Kentucky circuit-court judge has voided a utility-tax increase imposed by the Campbell County school board, ruling that the state's 1990 education-reform law requires voter approval of such increases.

School officials said the section of the law cited by the judge is a loophole created by the state legislature, which intended to allow districts to raise property and utility tax rates without a referendum. But language in one section of the act makes all utility-tax increases subject to voter recall.

Officials said the ruling could signal budget trouble for several districts around the state that have already built increased utility-tax proceeds into next year's spending plans. Loss of the 3 percent tax will cost Campbell County officials about $400,000.

The state school-board association group has offered to help appeal the decision to a higher court, but observers noted that the decision may be more quickly reversed next year when the legislature convenes.

The New York State Education Department has decided to destroy all copies of a state high-school examination after it accidentally mailed out answers to the test.

A spokesman for the department said the error resulted in a significant breach in security for the state Regents exam in English, prompting the education department to destroy all copies of a version of the test that it had planned to distribute this month.

The department did not cancel the test, but provided schools with a substitute version that cost the state an additional $10,000, the spokesman said.

The breach in test security is presumed to have occurred as a result of a department employee's inadvertently putting the answer key for the high-school test inside boxes of 5th-grade writing tests mailed to elementary schools.

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