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Robinson v. Cahill

Decided: March 30, 1972.


Botter, J.s.c.


[119 NJSuper Page 41] Following the filing of my opinion in this case on January 19, 1972, and reported in 118 N.J. Super. 223, counsel for defendants asked leave to be heard on the form of judgment to be entered and specifically moved (by letter of February 2, 1972, and orally on February 4, 1972) to postpone certain operative dates fixed by the court in that opinion, namely, the January 1, 1973 date and the January 1, 1974 date. The date suggested by the Attorney

General for legislative action was two years from the conclusion of an appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court, or, in any case, not earlier than January 1, 1974. In my written opinion I had provided that all operations under existing school laws and tax laws shall continue. I further provided:

To allow time for legislative action, such operations shall not be enjoined prior to January 1, 1974 except that if a nondiscriminatory system of taxation is not enacted by January 1, 1973, then from and after that date no state monies shall be distributed to any school districts pursuant to the 'minimum support aid' provisions and the save harmless provisions of the Bateman Act (L. 1970, c. 234) which have been identified previously in this opinion. All funds that are thereby set free shall be distributed by appropriate state officials in a manner that will effectuate as far as possible the principles expressed herein; more specifically, these funds shall be applied to raise guaranteed valuations to the highest level that a proportionate distribution of funds will permit, utilizing the remaining provisions of the Bateman Act. [118 N.J. Super. at 280-281]

On the motion to settle the form of judgment I denied the motion of the Attorney General for a change in these dates. However, in the judgment entered I added to the portion of the opinion quoted above the following:

Provided, however, that no such distribution of minimum aid and save harmless funds shall be made without further order of this court, and, in any event, the Commissioner of the State Department of Education, State of New Jersey, on or before November 15, 1972, shall formulate and submit to this court for approval a plan for the effectuation of this provision prior to putting it into effect; and provided, further, that the State Board of Education and/or the Commissioner of the Department of Education, State of New Jersey, may propose an alternate plan or plans for the use or distribution of said minimum support aid and save harmless funds to effectuate the principles expressed in the written opinion of this court in the event this injunction shall become operative, said plan or plans to be submitted on or before November 15, 1972.

At oral argument the Attorney General contended that the January 1, 1973 date for the possible cut-off of minimum aid to certain school districts presented practical difficulties. He did not contend that any school district would be legally

unable to obtain funds to replace the minimum aid loss that may occur. I denied the motion, with leave to the Attorney General to file a brief or letter memorandum specifically indicating whether it was his position that the statutory scheme would make it legally impossible for some school districts to obtain sufficient funds through usual budget appropriations and procedures to make up for the loss, if any, of minimum aid revenues from the State.

By letter of February 17, 1972 I again requested that the Attorney General advise me of his position on this point. I received a reply on or about March 2, and thereupon advised counsel that I intended to write a supplemental opinion on the subject and requested plaintiffs' attorney Ruvoldt to expedite his reply. He presented his position by letter of March 20.

I interpret the Attorney General's position to be that the withholding of certain state aid would leave a municipality with inadequate revenues raised by normal tax procedures between January 1 and June 30, 1973, and that this deficit would not be made up by taxes collected until the latter half of 1973. Nevertheless, any municipality whose expenses for the first half of any calendar year exceed tax revenues received during that period may borrow the additional money needed in anticipation of taxes to be received in the second half of the calendar year. This problem, when it exists, is not unique. It may occur because of increases in municipal and county expenses, as well as other reasons, such as the loss of anticipated federal aid or unusual reductions in ratables or in tax collections for a given period.

Under Title 40A, which includes the Local Budget Law (Chapter 4), the fiscal year is defined as "the calendar year beginning on January 1 and ending on December 31." N.J.S.A. 40A:1-1. Municipalities adopt budgets for a calendar year and these budgets are transmitted to the county ...

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