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Cave Creek Unified School District v. Ducey

Supreme Court of Arizona

September 26, 2013

Cave Creek Unified School District; Casa Grande Elementary School District; Crane Elementary School District; Palominas Elementary School District; Yuma Union High School District; Arizona Education Association; Arizona School Boards Association; Scott Holcomb; Frank Hunter; and Nancy Putman, Plaintiffs/Appellants,
v.
Doug Ducey, in his capacity as State Treasurer; and State of Arizona, Defendants/Appellees

Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County The Honorable J. Kenneth Mangum, Judge (Ret.) No. CV2010-017113

Opinion of the Court of Appeals, Division One 231 Ariz. 342, 295 P.3d 440 (2013)

Timothy M. Hogan, Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, Phoenix and Donald M. Peters (argued), LaSota & Peters, Phoenix, for Cave Creek Unified School District, Casa Grande Elementary School District, Crane Elementary School District, Palominas Elementary School District, Yuma Union High School District, Arizona Education Association, Arizona School Boards Association, Scott Holcomb, Frank Hunter, and Nancy Putman

Thomas C. Horne, Arizona Attorney General, Kathleen P. Sweeney (argued), Assistant Attorney General, Kevin D. Ray, Assistant Attorney General, Jinju Park, Assistant Attorney General, Phoenix, for Doug Ducey and the State of Arizona

Peter A. Gentala, Pele K. Peacock, Arizona House of Representatives, Phoenix; and Gregrey G. Jernigan, Arizona State Senate, Phoenix, for Amicus Curiae Andrew Tobin and Andy Biggs Michael T. Liburdi and Michelle M. Carr, Snell & Wilmer, LLP, Phoenix, for Amicus Curiae Arizona Free Enterprise Club

JUSTICE PELANDER authored the opinion of the Court, in which CHIEF JUSTICE BERCH, VICE CHIEF JUSTICE BALES, JUSTICE BRUTINEL, and JUSTICE TIMMER joined.

OPINION

PELANDER, JUSTICE

¶1 Arizona voters approved a referendum in 2000 that statutorily directed the Arizona Legislature to annually "increase the base level . . . of the revenue control limit" for K-12 public school funding. A.R.S. § 15-901.01. The issue here is whether the voters could constitutionally impose this mandate. Finding no constitutional impediment to the electorate's directive, we further hold that legislative adjustments to § 15-901.01's funding scheme are limited by the Voter Protection Act ("VPA"), Ariz. Const. art. 4, pt. 1, § 1(6)(B)-(C), (14).

I. BACKGROUND

¶2 Public elementary and secondary school funding is set by a statutory formula. See A.R.S. §§ 15-941 to -954. One aspect of that formula is the "base level, " a statutorily fixed "dollar amount that is multiplied by a weighted student count and other factors to determine the base support level for each school district." Cave Creek Unified Sch. Dist. v. Ducey, 231 Ariz. 342, 345 ¶ 2 n.1, 295 P.3d 440, 443 n.1 (App. 2013); see also A.R.S. § 15-901(B)(2) (defining "base level"). During the pertinent time, the base support level and the transportation support level were the only two components of the "revenue control limit, " a budget expenditure limit used to calculate the amount of certain state funds provided to school districts. A.R.S. §§ 15-901(A)(12), -947, -971.

¶3 In 2000, the legislature approved SB 1007, which proposed a sales tax to increase funding for public schools, community colleges, and universities, as well as other changes to the "financial accountability" requirements of K-12 schools. 2000 Ariz. Sess. Laws, ch. 1 (5th Spec. Sess.). The legislature referred portions of SB 1007 as Proposition 301 for voter approval in the 2000 general election. Approved by the voters, that measure included a requirement that the legislature make annual inflation adjustments to the budget for K-12 public schools:

If approved by the qualified electors voting at a statewide general election, for fiscal years 2001-2002 through 2005-2006, the legislature shall increase the base level or other components of the revenue control limit by two per cent. For fiscal year 2006-2007 and each fiscal year thereafter, the legislature shall increase the base level or other components of the revenue control limit by a minimum growth rate of either two per cent or the change in the GDP price deflator, as defined in [A.R.S. §] 41-563, from the second preceding calendar year to the calendar year immediately preceding the budget year, whichever is less, except that the base level shall never be reduced below the base level established for fiscal year 2001-2002.

Id. § 11. That provision is codified as A.R.S. § 15-901.01.

¶4 From 2001 to 2010, the legislature adjusted the base level and transportation support level annually for inflation. The 2010-11 budget (HB 2008), however, included an adjustment only to the transportation support level. 2010 Ariz. Sess. Laws, ch. 8, ยง 2 (7th Spec. Sess.). The 2011-12 ...


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