Kramar v. Bon Homme County

Citation83 S.D. 112,155 N.W.2d 777
Decision Date22 January 1968
Docket NumberNo. 10510,10510
PartiesO. F. KRAMAR, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. BON HOMME COUNTY, a public corporation, Clarence Bowers, Frank Mann, AlbertKreber, Art Clough and Martin Van Gerpen, as the Board of County Commissionersof Bon Homme County, South Dakota, and Jerry Hermanek, as the Auditor of BonHomme County,South Dakota, Defendants and Appellants.
CourtSouth Dakota Supreme Court

Elmer Gemar, Springfield, for defendants and appellants.

Blaine Simons, Sioux Falls, for plaintiff and respondent.

Frank L. Farrar, Atty. Gen., C. J. Kelly, Asst. Atty. Gen., Pierre, amicus curiae.


By a declaratory judgment action plaintiff-respondent, a taxpayer owning property within three common school districts in Bon Homme County, seeks a determination of constitutionality of our statute creating a County Elementary School Equalization Fund. 1 He sets forth in his complaint various provisions of the state and federal constitutions which he claims are violated by the statute. All were considered by the trial court but the court concluded and entered judgment on November 27, 1967, determining that the statute only violated Section 15 of Article VIII of the South Dakota Constitution and consequently was void. As a part of such judgment the court enjoined defendants-appellants who are county officials from levying or collecting any tax upon property in the common districts of Bon Homme County under such statute.

Because an early determination of the action was desirable in view of the public interest in the question involved, the court expedited the appeal by shortening the time for filing briefs and for hearing oral argument. The parties confined their briefs and argument to the constitutional provision which the court held was infringed. Essentially the statute involved provides a formula for an ad valorem tax upon property in districts not operating a high school to aid common school districts within each county.

The county superintendent between July 1st and 10th of each year determines from his records the estimated cost of operation of each common school district for the preceding fiscal year with some exclusions and certifies the amount thereof to the county auditor. The county commissioners are then required to levy a tax for 50% Of that amount spread equally against all taxable property within the county except that located in districts operating a high school. After collection county officials distribute the tax money to the common school districts within the county upon a percentage determined by dividing the total spent by each district, with some exclusions, by the total spent by all such districts within the county, with some exclusions, during the past fiscal year. The county superintendent from his records supplies the figures needed for the computations. It is admitted that under the statutory formula some common districts are distributed more money than is collected from taxes on property within that district. Conversely, some districts pay more and receive less of the taxes levied.

It is axiomatic that every presumption favors the validity of legislative action and no statute should be held unconstitutional by a court unless its infringement of organic restrictions is so plain and palpable as to admit of no reasonable doubt. State ex rel. Botkin v. Welsh, 61 S.D. 593, 251 N.W. 189. Further, that whenever within the bounds of reasonable and legitimate construction an act of the legislature can be construed as not to violate the constitution such construction should be adopted. Matthews v. Linn, 78 S.D. 203, 99 N.W.2d 885. The constitution is not a grant but a limitation upon the lawmaking power of the state legislature and it may enact any law not expressly or inferentially prohibited by state and federal constitutions. Acker v. Adamson, 67 S.D. 341, 293 N.W. 83; Peterson Oil Co. v. Frary, 46 S.D. 258, 192 N.W. 366; 264 U.S. 570, 44 S.Ct. 334, 68 L.Ed. 854. Constitutional provisions relative to taxation are limitations on the taxing power and not grants of power. Aubol v. Engeseth, 66 N.D. 63, 262 N.W. 338, 100 A.L.R. 853.

Article VIII, § 15 provides:

'The legislature shall make such provision by general taxation and by authorizing the school corporations to levy such additional taxes as with the income from the permanent school fund shall secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the state. (The legislature is empowered to classify properties within school districts for purposes of school taxation, and may constitute agricultural lands a separate class. Taxes shall be uniform on all property in the same class.)'

The second and third sentences supra were added by amendment in November 1930 when the electorate approved Ch. 85, S.L.1929.

In Simmons v. Ericson (Jan. 1929), 54 S.D. 429, 223 N.W. 342, this court held a statute providing for a limitation of 10 mills for school taxes on agricultural land in a school district when other real estate in the same district could be taxed 25 mills violated Section 2, Article XI of the South Dakota Constitution which provides that taxes shall be uniform on all property of the same class since there was no difference in character of such property to reasonably warrant a distinction between them.

After the 1930 amendment, the matter was again before the court under substantially similar facts in Great Northern Railway Co. v. Whitfield, 65 S.D. 173, 272 N.W. 787, 111 A.L.R. 1475, and it was contended that separate classfication of agricultural land violated the uniformity clause of our state constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment of the federal constitution. The court wrote:

'It would appear, therefore, that a state may adjust its tax system to meet its necessities in all proper and reasonable ways. School taxes in South Dakota are a necessity. This state, under its compact with the United States as expressed in paragraph 4 of article 22 of the State Constitution, has obligated itself as follows: 'That provision shall be made for the establishment and maintenance of systems of public schools, which shall be open to all the children of this state.''

The court concluded that the classification was neither unreasonable nor arbitrary.

The trial court re...

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18 cases
  • Wegleitner v. Sattler
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • February 18, 1998
    ...v. School Bd. of Yankton Ind. Sch. Dist. No. 1, 90 S.D. 599, 606, 246 N.W.2d 93, 97 (S.D.1976) (citing Kramar v. Bon Homme County, 83 S.D. 112, 115, 155 N.W.2d 777, 778 (1968)); accord Kyllo v. Panzer, 535 N.W.2d 896, 903 (S.D.1995). "Consequently, in determining whether an act is unconstit......
  • Kneip v. Herseth
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • January 9, 1974
    ...Mitchell, 1915, 35 S.D. 335, 152 N.W. 339; Bekker v. White River Valley Ry. Co., 1911, 28 S.D. 84, 132 N.W. 797; Kramar v. Bon Homme County, 1968, 83 S.D. 112, 155 N.W.2d 777; Matthews v. Linn, 1959, 78 S.D. 203, 99 N.W.2d 885; Haas v. Independent School Dist. No. 1 of Yankton, 1943, 69 S.D......
  • Heartland Consumers Power Dist., In re
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • October 7, 1970
    ...principle of constitutional law is so plain and palpable as to leave no reasonable doubt of its validity.' See also Kramer v. Bon Homme County, 83 S.D. 112, 155 N.W.2d 777; Clem v. City of Yankton, 83 S.D. 386, 160 N.W.2d 125. As stated in Clem, in order to determine that an act is unconsti......
  • Pennington v. STATE EX REL. JUD. SYSTEM
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • February 27, 2002
    ...v. Sch. Bd. of Yankton Ind. Sch. Dist. No. 1, 90 S.D. 599, 606, 246 N.W.2d 93, 97 (S.D.1976) (citing Kramar v. Bon Homme County, 83 S.D. 112, 115, 155 N.W.2d 777, 778 (1968)). The states have created local government entities such as counties, townships and cities to do the states' work at ......
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