The matters before this court are cross-motions by plaintiffs and defendants for summary judgment. The issues raised are of novel impression to the courts of New Jersey.
In December 1954 the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders adopted a resolution creating a children's shelter in accordance with N.J.S.A. 9:12A-1 and further provided for the appointment of a board of Trustees in accordance with the statute. The shelter was constructed in Wayne and intended as a temporary facility for delinquent and abandoned or neglected children.
No formal educational program was conducted at the shelter prior to September 1968. In 1968 both the board of trustees of the Passaic County Children's Shelter and the board of freeholders adopted resolutions providing for an educational program to be instituted at the shelter under the auspices of the Wayne Board of Education. In addition it was provided that the cost of the educational program would be supported on a pro rata basis among the various school districts which had pupils in attendance at the shelter.
The tuition charges for the shelter for the years 1968-69, 1969-70 and 1970-71 totaled $36,256, $45,800 and $37,240, respectively. The decision to apportion said costs on a pro rata basis resulted in assessments against Paterson in the amounts of $26,574, $31,056 and $23,328, and against Passaic in the amounts of $6,901, $10,712 and $8,392 for the same periods. Thus, although there are 14 other municipalities in Passaic County, the school districts of Passaic and Paterson have been assessed with approximately 90% of the cost of the shelter's educational program.
At first the plaintiff boards of education objected to the charges submitted for the program and resisted payment. After it was threatened to discontinue the education classes, both boards decided to make payments under protest.
The dispute was brought before the court by the instant action in lieu of prerogative writs, commenced by the Board of Education of the City of Passaic and by David Hammer
and Robert Hopkins, individually. At the pre-trial the Board of Education of the City of Paterson was granted leave to intervene as a party plaintiff. The complaint alleges that the educational program established at the Passaic County Children's Shelter is in violation of existing laws and that monies paid by the plaintiff boards of education pursuant to such program were paid by mistake. Consequently, plaintiff boards of education seek an accounting, restitution of the monies previously paid, and a restraint upon defendants from collecting additional monies from them for the educational program at the county shelter. Additionally, the individual plaintiffs seek this court to adjudge that the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders, or, in the alternative the Board of Education of the Township of Wayne, is required to provide free education for the children housed at the Passaic County Children's Shelter.
Under Judson v. Peoples Bank and Trust Co. of Westfield , 17 N.J. 67, 74 (1954), summary judgment may be rendered when the pleadings, depositions and admissions on file, together with affidavits submitted on the motion, show clearly that there is no genuine issue of material fact requiring disposition at a trial. In the instant case there is no factual dispute and judgment may be rendered on the applicable law.
Plaintiffs contend that N.J.S.A. 9:12A-1 places the responsibility of funding the educational program conducted at the county shelter on the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders. This court is in full agreement with such a contention.
N.J.S.A. 9:12A-1, in authorizing the establishment of a children's shelter, states in part: "* * * the board of chosen freeholders shall provide the funds for carrying on the shelter and for the betterments, improvements and replacements that may be required, in the annual appropriations, but money for new buildings and the equipment thereof and other permanent ...