Civil action on complaint for declaratory judgment.
Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment construing the meaning and legal effect, as to it, of L. 1967, c. 74, since amended by L. 1968, c. 29, and now known as N.J.S. 18 A:39-1, et seq. Plaintiff also seeks a determination as to whether it shall be obligated to pay Gateway Regional High School District (hereinafter "Gateway") for transporting nonpublic school students who live within the Borough of Woodbury Heights and who attend private, nonprofit schools from kindergarten through sixth grade and also from grades seven through twelve, to such schools as are not more than 20 miles from the residence of such pupils.
The facts are not disputed and all parties have moved for summary judgments.
Defendant Gateway is a regional junior high school and a high school district composed of students from grades 7 through 12 from the Boroughs of Woodbury Heights, Wenonah, Westville and National Park, all in Gloucester County, New Jersey.
Plaintiff (hereinafter "Woodbury Heights") does not now, nor has it ever, transported or paid for the transportation of any students living within its jurisdiction to any school within or without its jurisdiction with the exception of providing certain transportation under R.S. 18:14-9. When the voters in Woodbury Heights on June 28, 1962 elected to become a part of Gateway the ballot stated specifically that the grades for which they were joining were 7 through 12, inclusive. Thereafter, and down to the present time, none of the pupils from grades 7 through 12, attending Gateway are afforded any public transportation, although that regional district does provide public transportation for its students from the other three municipalities.
On August 17, 1967 Woodbury Heights, having been made aware of the fact that Gateway intended to provide transportation for students within the jurisdiction of Woodbury Heights who attend private, nonprofit schools from kindergarten through grade 6, as well as those from grades 7 through 12, notified Gateway in writing that it would not accept the responsibility of reimbursing Gateway for such transportation, alleging that such transportation was not within the meaning of the statute referred to above. Gateway, nevertheless, is providing such transportation and does intend to charge Woodbury Heights therefor under the provisions of the above act.
On May 26, 1967 Governor Hughes signed into law Assembly Bill No. 21, as amended (L. 1967, c. 74). The bill expanded the then existing school transportation provisions in several substantial respects, beginning July 1, 1967. One portion pertained specifically to regional school district transportation. Thus, it was provided that:
"Whenever any regional school district provides any transportation for pupils attending schools other than public schools pursuant to this act, said regional district shall assume responsibility for the transportation of all such pupils and the cost of such transportation for pupils below the grade level for which the regional was organized, shall be prorated by the regional district to the constituent districts on a per pupil basis after approval of such cost by the county superintendent of schools." N.J.S. 18A:39-1.
Woodbury Heights is the governing body of a school district composed of the Borough of Woodbury Heights. The district is a "Type II" school district (formerly "Chapter 7") organized for grades kindergarten through six.
There are residing in Woodbury Heights some nine children who attend private, nonprofit schools in grade levels below grade 7 and who are transported to school pursuant to N.J.S. 18 A:39-1. These children, since they live "remote," are being transported to school by Gateway. In accordance with the requirement of N.J.S. 18 A:39-1, the cost of such transportation is being prorated by the regional district among the constituent districts on a per pupil basis, and Gateway has billed Woodbury Heights for the costs so incurred. Woodbury Heights has challenged this billing, asserting that since no kindergarten to grade 6 public school pupils residing in Woodbury Heights are being transported, there was no responsibility placed upon it to pay for the transportation by Gateway of private, nonprofit school pupils in grade levels below that for which Gateway is organized (7 through 12).
Woodbury Heights, in its motion for summary judgment, advances the following four main arguments:
I. R.S. 18:14-8, as revised, is not intended to compel the Borough of Woodbury Heights to provide payment for transportation of private school students, grades kindergarten to 6, wherein it does not provide a like service for those attending public schools.
II. R.S. 18:14-8, as amended, if intended to compel the Borough of Woodbury Heights to provide ...