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It's no Boston Tea Party, but residents of the Midwest who look forward to tranquil lakefront summer breaks in northern Michigan are hopping mad over taxes they must pay under the state's new school-finance system.

Michigan lawmakers in 1993 adopted a funding system that drastically reduced local property taxes for most homeowners. The legislators, however, allowed school districts to tax owners of second homes at more than three times the property-tax rate applied to primary residences.

As a result, Frank Andress, a retired financial executive who lives in Cincinnati but owns a vacation home near Lake Leelanau in Michigan, is paying $2,900 a year more in taxes to help finance schools there than residents who own one home and live in Michigan year-round.

Mr. Andress has spearheaded a group of offended vacation-home owners who have raised more than $75,000 to challenge the law. Mr. Andress said Citizens for Uniform Taxation will argue that it is unconstitutional for a state to discriminate against residents of another state.

"The people in Michigan have created a situation about which we can do nothing," he said. "We are willing to pay the same as everyone else even though we don't use the schools. They've created a case of no vote, no influence, so we have to fight it."

Mr. Andress is looking to the courts for relief--much the way he looks to the breezes of Lake Leelanau to provide a tonic for the stifling Cincinnati summers.

A Sun Prairie, Wis., high school has had to resort to hiring a mediator to settle a territorial feud between the cheerleaders and the pompon squad.

The district recently spent $700 to bring in a local conflict-resolution specialist after it was unable to end the squabble over which group should be in charge of performing in parades, decorating athletes' homes, and performing other activities to promote team spirit.

The pompon squad had complained that the cheerleaders had a monopoly on many school-pep projects. The dispute even prompted the coaches of both groups to resign.

"We wanted someone impartial to bring everyone to common ground," said Brian Busler, the business manager for the 4,427-student district. "We're optimistic that everything is going to be resolved soon."

--Lonnie Harp
& Jessica Portner

Vol. 15, Issue 18

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