Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas for the 39th Judicial District, Franklin County Branch, in case of Russell M. Shoemaker, Sr., William O. Shuman, Ray Peterson, Jr., Harry H. Jones, Robert H. Cordell, Colin S. Beegle, and Barbara Leydig, all as individual taxpayers and as representatives of all taxpayers of the Greencastle-Antrim School District v. Greencastle-Antrim Board of School Directors, Harry M. Stephey, as School Director and Individually, Phyllis C. Wertime, as School Director and Individually, Harold F. Crider, as School Director and Individually, Thomas R. Pensinger, as School Director and Individually, Charles A. Rine, as School Director and Individually, Equity Docket Volume 7, Page 153.
Frederic G. Antoun, Jr., for appellants.
R. Stephen Shibla, with him Henry W. Rhoads; Rhoads, Sinon & Hendershot ; and, of counsel, Rudolf M. Wertime and Wertime and Guyer, for appellees.
Judges Crumlish, Jr., DiSalle and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge DiSalle.
[ 44 Pa. Commw. Page 138]
A group of taxpayers (Appellants) of the Greencastle-Antrim School District (District) filed a complaint in equity in the Court of Common Pleas of the 39th Judicial District -- Franklin County Branch -- seeking to enjoin the District's Board of School Directors (Board) and individual members thereof (hereinafter collectively referred to as Appellees) from transferring funds from one budget item to another and from spending these funds, allegedly in violation of Section 609 of the Public School Code of 1949 (Code), Act of March 10, 1949, P.L. 30, as amended, 24 P.S. § 6-609.*fn1 Specifically, Appellants contended that the Board's action to transfer the funds lacked the support of at least two-thirds of the Board's membership.*fn2 Appellees filed preliminary objections alleging that the court was without power to issue an injunction since the Board's action was authorized by Section 687(d) of the Code, 24 P.S. § 6-687(d).*fn3 While
[ 44 Pa. Commw. Page 139]
overruling the objections, the court nevertheless denied the application for an injunction, concluding that it was powerless to restrain the transfer and spending of funds under the circumstances of this case. Appellants appealed from this decision.
The facts are not in dispute. On June 30, 1977, the Board, by simple majority vote, adopted a budget for the fiscal year, July 1, 1977, to June 30, 1978.*fn4 Later the same day, the Board levied the school taxes. On January 5, 1978, the Board, again by simple majority vote, adopted a resolution transferring funds from certain budget items to other items in the budget. It is admitted by the parties that the transferred funds represented unencumbered balances: i.e., funds for which no obligation in the form of purchase orders, contracts or salary commitments existed, even though such obligations did exist when the funds were initially appropriated.*fn5
[ 44 Pa. Commw. Page 140]
The obvious problem which confronted the court below was the interpretation of Sections 609 and 687(d). Appellants argued that Section 609 mandates that such transfer of funds, in all instances and at any time during the fiscal year, requires the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the Board. Appellees contended that Section 687(d) confers such authority on a simple majority of the Board, when the funds are unencumbered and the transfers effected in the last nine months of the fiscal year.*fn6 The lower court concluded that
the power of a school district such as the Greencastle-Antrim district to transfer unencumbered funds be restricted only as to time, that is, for the first three months or after a budget has been adopted and before taxes are levied, and that at other times such funds can be transferred by a simple majority.
This interpretation derived largely from the court's conclusion that the language "at or before the time of levying the school taxes" found in Section 609 restricts the applicability of the two-thirds voting requirement to transfers during ...