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Alfred Vail Mutual Association v. Borough of New Shrewsbury

Decided: March 8, 1971.

ALFRED VAIL MUTUAL ASSOCIATION AND THE TOWNSHIP OF SHREWSBURY, PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS,
v.
BOROUGH OF NEW SHREWSBURY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



For affirmance -- Chief Justice Weintraub and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Proctor, Hall and Schettino. For reversal -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Schettino, J.

Schettino

We are here concerned with the validity of the current method of apportioning regional school costs between the constituent municipalities of the Tinton Falls Regional Elementary School District, the Township of Shrewsbury [hereinafter the Township] and the Borough of New Shrewsbury [hereinafter the Borough].

Due to the fact that the Borough of Eatontown School District and the Tinton Falls Regional Elementary School District together comprise the Monmouth Regional High School District, these municipalities divide the latter's proportionate share of the regional high school costs as well as the operating costs for the regional elementary school district.

Prior to the passage of L. 1965, c. 175, the operating expenses for the common school district were historically apportionable between these two municipalities on the basis of their respective assessed valuations. Under the assessed valuation formula, the Borough, since the ratio of enrolled

pupils to assessed valuations was substantially lower in the Borough than in the Township, apparently bore a disproportionately high share of these regional school costs when viewed with respect to the allocable cost per pupil.*fn1

Pursuant to the provisions of L. 1965, c. 175, which mandated that school costs be apportioned in certain school districts "upon the basis of the number of pupils enrolled therefrom on the last day of September of the current school year in the same manner as would apply if said municipalities comprised separate constituent school districts," these municipalities now apportion regional school costs by a per pupil formula. Although L. 1965, c. 175 does not appear in the recent revision of the education statutes, the apportionment scheme it prescribed continues to be binding on the Tinton Falls Regional Elementary School District by virtue of the enactment of N.J.S.A. 18A:13-23.*fn2

On December 18, 1967, plaintiffs, the Township and the Alfred Vail Mutual Association (the Township's largest taxpayer),

instituted this action seeking a declaratory judgment that regional school costs for the Tinton Falls Regional Elementary School District should be apportioned on the basis of assessed valuations rather than under the per pupil formula prescribed by L. 1965, c. 175. Since the Township's school support obligation under the assessed valuation formula would have been substantially lower than under the per pupil formula which has been used for all apportionments of regional school costs made since January 1, 1966, plaintiffs also sought readjustment in favor of the Township for payments already made under the per pupil formula.

In challenging the validity of the per pupil method for apportioning regional school costs prescribed by L. 1965, c. 175, plaintiffs admitted that the statute was applicable to the Tinton Falls Regional Elementary School District.*fn3 Plaintiffs, however, argued that the statute was violative of state constitutional provisions prohibiting special legislation

on the ground that it was impermissibly designed solely for the purpose of ...


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