Supreme Court Upholds Ruling Preventing Tax Cut in St. Louis

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Washington--The U.S. Supreme Court declined last week to block a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit requiring the city of St. Louis to defer a $5.7-million local property-tax rollback to help finance the metropolitan area's landmark school-desegregation plan.

The Court was acting on a request by city officials for a stay of the appeals court's Feb. 8 ruling that upheld U.S. District Judge William L. Hungate's July 5 order blocking the voter-approved property-tax rollback.

In papers filed with the Court, the city argued that Judge Hungate failed to determine whether deferring the scheduled tax reduction was essential to the plan's success.

Although it declined to grant the city's request for a stay, the Court did not hand down a ruling on the city's call for a full review of the appeals court's decision. The lawsuit is Leggett v. Liddell (Case No. 83-1386).

Decision Reversed

In a related development, the Eighth Circuit Court last week reversed an earlier decision it had made and agreed to allow suburban students who had transferred to other suburban schools under the desegregation plan to continue attending their new schools through the end of the school year.

The court ordered an end to such transfers on Feb. 8, holding that they would not foster desegregation in the 60,500-student city school district. (See Education Week, Feb. 15, 1984.)

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the 23 suburban school districts involved in the cross-district integration plan asked the appeals panel to reconsider its decision because it would unnecessarily disrupt the education of 311 suburban students who switched schools last September.

The appeals court's March 5 decision in Liddell v. Missouri also requires the suburban districts and the state of Missouri "to attempt in good faith" to split the cost of the suburb-to-suburb transfers, estimated at $400,000, from Feb. 21 to the end of the school year.

If the two sides cannot reach an agreement, the panel said, Judge Hungate will determine the allocation of costs.

Last month, Missouri Attorney General John D. Ashcroft announced that the state would ask the Supreme Court to overturn the appeals court's Feb. 8 ruling, which required the state to bear the entire cost of student transportation between the city and suburbs and the cost of the establishment of magnet schools in the city.

In a prepared statement, Mr. Ashcroft said the most recent order "is unbelievable and a gross miscarriage of justice."

"The Supreme Court now has an even stronger reason to examine and overturn the decisions of both the district court and the court of appeals," he said. "All we've ever asked for in this case is a fair trial, and we're still waiting."

Mr. Ashcroft said he would present the state's appeal of the appeals court's order to the Supreme Court within the next few weeks.--tm

Vol. 03, Issue 25

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