The opinion of the court was delivered by: WOLIN
The issues presented by this declaratory judgment action demonstrate how application of a constitutional principle in a doctrinaire manner, while promoting one community interest, will disserve a competing community interest. At stake is the application of the "one-person, one-vote" principle to a limited regional school board. While the passage of time and the shift of population mandates a weighted vote, the implementation of that vote must not eliminate the meaningful dialogue that has permitted this regional school district and its constituent municipalities to achieve a standard of formidable success.
While the Court will declare N.J. Stat. Ann. 18A:13-8 unconstitutional as applied to the Freehold Regional High School District ("District"), it is unwilling to apportion the votes in the manner suggested by the plaintiffs, an apportionment that would deprive five of the eight municipalities an equal voice in the District's affairs.
This case is before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment. All of the parties agree that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that the issues presented may be resolved as a matter of law. Because the Complaints of the Township of Marlboro and the Township of Manalapan were independently filed and contain claims and relief that are mirror images of each other, the Court for purposes of expediency will consolidate them. Moreover, the Court will grant Colts Neck's motion to intervene.
This case arises out of a civil dispute between the plaintiffs the Township of Marlboro, Marcus, Greenstein, the Township of Manalapan, Bachman, and the defendants the Board of Education of the Freehold Regional High School, Maddaluna, and Klagholz.
By the authority of N.J. Stat. Ann. 18A:13-8
, the District was formed in 1954. (See Moskovitz O.T.S.C. Cert. P 2.) In accordance with the governing law at that time, approval of the formation of the District was required by the residents of each town. (See District Undisputed Facts P 3.) "The public referendum on this issue received a [sic] overwhelming majority of votes in each" town. (Id.) The municipalities of Englishtown Borough, Howell Township, Manalapan, Freehold Township, Freehold Borough, Farmingdale Borough, and Colts Neck Township, all located in Monmouth County, joined with Marlboro, a municipal corporation also located in Monmouth County, New Jersey, to form the District for the purpose of creating public high schools for the education of the eight municipalities' residents.
(See Complaint P 1.) The District agreed to locate the regional school in the Borough of Freehold, using the present site and existing facilities. (See Saylor Aff. Exh. F (Committee Report issued after a 11/14/52 Committee meeting).) Each municipality contributed to the purchase of the site and existing high school. (See id.) In order to house all the students in the regional area, the District envisioned a school of at least double the facilities of the Freehold High School. (See id.) The school districts comprising the regional school districts all bore a proportionate share of the debt service. (See id.)
In 1952, Freehold Borough represented 43% of the student population, and the remaining municipalities represented 57% of the student population. (See District Br. at 9.) These percentages would change as the other municipalities developed. (See id.)
Each of the eight municipalities which form the District is deemed a district, and each municipality elects one member to the Board. However, because the largest population of the eight towns belongs to Howell Township, the ninth seat is also occupied by a representative from Howell Township. (See Moskovitz O.T.S.C. Cert. P 3.) In her certification, Harriet M. Strickler, Principal Planner of the Monmouth County Planning Board's Demographics Publication Section, sets forth that the total population of the eight towns comprising the District is 140,418. (See id. P 4.) According to the 1990 federal census, the population of each district, and the commensurate percentages of the total population, of the District is as follows:
Howell Township 38,987 27.8%
Marlboro 27,974 19.9%
Manalapan 26,716 19.0%
Freehold Township 24,710 17.6%
Freehold Borough 10,742 7.7%
Colts Neck Township 8,559 6.1%
Farmingdale Borough 1,462 1.0%
Englishtown Borough 1,268 0.9%
(See Complaint P 13; Moskovitz O.T.S.C. Cert. P 5.) With the exception of Howell Township, each of the towns has one representative despite the above divergent percentages. (See Moskovitz O.T.S.C. Cert. P 6.) "Projected estimates for 1997 indicate that the proportion of the total population of the eight towns remains reasonably steady from 1990, except that Marlboro has a mathematically increased percentage and Freehold Borough has a mathematically decreased percentage." (Strickler O.T.S.C. Cert. P 5.) Marlboro's percentage of population has increased to 20.8%, Freehold Township's percentage of population has increased to 18.1%, and Manalapan's percentage has increased to 19.1%, while Freehold Borough's percentage of population has decreased to 6.5%, and Farmingdale's percentage has decreased to 0.9%. (See Moskovitz O.T.S.C. Cert. P 7.)
With the exception of Howell's 22% of the voting power, each of the eight towns has a voting power on the Board of 11%, notwithstanding the wide differences in percentage of population. (See id. P 8.) The plaintiffs set forth that, "on a strict population basis, when the 1990 census percentages are calculated against a nine-vote Board and rounded to the nearest tenth of a vote," each of the towns should have the following votes:
Howell Township 2.5
Freehold Township 1.6
Freehold Borough 0.7
Colts Neck Township 0.5
Farmingdale Borough 0.1
Englishtown Borough 0.1
(Id. P 9; Complaint at 6.) Accordingly, based on the 1990 census' total population of 140,418 for the eight towns, 15,602 people should be represented by each of the nine seats. (See Moskovitz O.T.S.C. Cert. P 10.) However, currently, Englishtown Borough's seat represents 1,268 people, Farmingdale Borough's seat represents 1,462 people, while Marlboro's seat represents 27,974 people, and Manalapan's seat represents 26,716 people. (See id. P 11.)
Based on the 1990 census, Manalapan's divergence from the norm is 71.2% under represented, and Marlboro's deviation from the norm is 79.3% under represented. In contrast, Englishtown and Farmingdale's deviation from the norm is 91.9% and 90.6% over represented, respectively. (See Moskovitz O.T.S.C. Cert. P 12.) The plaintiffs maintain that these deviations result in a maximum total deviation from the norm of 171.2%, or 17 times the maximum allowable divergence suggested by the New Jersey Supreme Court. (See id. (referring to Franklin Township v. Board of Educ. of N. Hunterdon High School, 74 N.J. 345, 378 A.2d 218 (1977), cert. denied, 435 U.S. 950 (1978).) Using the 1997 estimated population figures, the norm deviation is markedly increased, with Englishtown being over represented by 92.1% and Marlboro being under represented by 87.2%, for a total deviation of 179.3% from the norm. (See id. P 14.) In effect, the Marlboro seat possesses approximately 50% of the vote it should be accorded, while the Englishtown seat has over 1000% of the vote to which it is entitled. (See id.)
The District provides an educational curriculum more enriching and diverse in comparison to any single high school in New Jersey, which has a "forcefully positive effect on student performance."
(See District Br. at 12, 13.) Creation of the District has also offered administrative economies and numerous benefits.
Perhaps most significantly, the District's per pupil spending cost was the fourth lowest in New Jersey and its per pupil administration cost was ...