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MEADVILLE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT v. DEPARTMENT PUBLIC INSTRUCTION. (03/22/60)

March 22, 1960

MEADVILLE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLANT
v.
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION.



Appeal, No. 26, May T., 1960, for order of Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, No. 471 Commonwealth Docket, 1958, in case of Meadville Area School District V. Department of Public Instruction et al. Order reversed. Mandamus. Defendant's preliminary objections sustained and complaint dismissed, and order entered, opinion by RICHARDS, P.J. Plaintiff appealed.

COUNSEL

George J. Barco, with him Barco and Barco, and Burgwin, Ruffin, Perry & Pohl, for appellant.

John D. Killian, III, Deputy Attorney General, with him Anne X. Alpern, Attorney General, for appellee.

Before Jones, C.j., Bell, Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Bok and Eagen, JJ.

Author: Cohen

[ 398 Pa. Page 498]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE COHEN

Plaintiff School District authorized its officials to lease from the Meadville Area School Authority a new senior high school building which the Authority was to erect. The School District filed due notice of its action with the defendant Department, and requested approval to proceed with said project. On December 21, 1955, defendant Department approved the project, without provision for any reimbursement by the Commonwealth. Subsequently, on March 22, 1956, the legislature enacted Act No. 417, P.L. 1315, 24 PS §§ 25-2572, 25-2574 to 25-2580, effective immediately as an amendment to the Public School Code, Act of March 10, 1949, P.L. 30, which authorized the Commonwealth to make rental reimbursement for school building projects, based on a statutory formula, to School Districts for leases approved by the Department of Public Instruction. The Act provided that no payment was to be made "unless such lease ... is approved by the Department of Public Instruction." Section 2576(a). (Emphasis supplied).

[ 398 Pa. Page 499]

On may 7, 1956, plaintiff submitted to defendant Department a duly executed copy of the agreement of lease for the defendants' approval. Under the lease agreement, plaintiff became obligated to pay the School Authority, during the term of each school year, an annual rental of $150,000 for the building, payable in two semi-annual payments, the first payment due on September 15, 1956, and the second on March 15, 1957. For the 1956-57 school year, plaintiff did pay the School Authority $75,000 on September 15, 1956, and $75,000 on March 15, 1957.

Section 2577(a) of the Act empowered the Superintendent of Public Instruction during the school year 1956-57 to approve for rental reimbursement projects the reimbursable cost of which, when added to the reimbursable cost of projects approved in previous years, would not exceed in the school year 1956-57 the aggregate sum of $725,000,000. On February 4, 1957, several months after the first payment by plaintiff to the School Authority was due and made, defendant Department formally approved the agreement of lease for rental reimbursement. Plaintiff School District, upon approval of said lease, became entitled on the basis of the statutory formula to rental reimbursement of $50,000 per year. Later, during 1957, the Department granted the plaintiff reimbursement in the sum of $25,000, both plaintiff and defendants treating this sum as reimbursement for the rental payment made on March 15, 1957.

Plaintiff, in this action, seeks a writ of mandamus to compel the Department of Public Instruction, the Auditor General and the State Treasurer to reimburse plaintiff in the sum of $25,000 toward the $75,000 lease payment made by plaintiff on September 15, 1956. Defendants, acting in accordance with opinions of the Attorney General, have taken the position throughout that plaintiff is not entitled to the disputed sum because

[ 398 Pa. Page 500]

    the rental payment was made prior to February 4, 1957, the date of formal approval by defendant Department of plaintiff's agreement of lease. Defendants filed preliminary objections to plaintiff's complaint contending (a) that the court lacked jurisdiction in mandamus, and (b) that the complaint did not aver facts which create a legal right to recovery. The Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County entered an order dismissing the preliminary objections relating to jurisdiction, but ...


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