Appeal from the Order of the Department of Community Affairs in the case of In Re: Property Owners, Residents, and/or Taxpayers of Pleasant Valley School District, Mike Vianello et al. v. Pleasant Valley School District, Hearing Docket No. LGUDA -- 19, dated July 27, 1984.
Michael Vianello, for petitioners.
Jan P. Paden, with him, Richard B. Wood, Rhoads & Sinon, for respondent, Pleasant Valley School District.
Judges Craig and Palladino, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Palladino.
[ 100 Pa. Commw. Page 514]
Property owners, residents and/or taxpayers of Pleasant Valley School District (petitioners),*fn1 appeal the dismissal
[ 100 Pa. Commw. Page 515]
of their complaint by the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). The complaint, filed with DCA pursuant to Section 901 of the Local Government Unit Debt Act*fn2 (Debt Act), challenged the regularity of proceedings by the Pleasant Valley School District (school district) with respect to the issuance of $6,955,000 in general obligation bonds. The purpose of these bonds was to finance a capital project consisting of the construction of additions, alterations and modifications to the Pleasant Valley Junior-Senior High School. In addition, Petitioners challenge DCA's approval of the bond issue.*fn3
[ 100 Pa. Commw. Page 516]
In 1982, the Pleasant Valley School Board determined that alterations and additions to its Junior-Senior High School were necessary in order to relieve an overcrowding problem in the district. After receiving project approval from the Department of Education, school district, on June 21, 1984, adopted an amended resolution authorizing and awarding a series of general obligation bonds in the aggregate amount of $6,955,000. Thereafter, on June 29, 1984, school district filed an "Application For Approval To Deliver Bonds Under Provisions of Section 411(a) of the Local Government Unit Debt Act" with DCA.*fn4
On July 9, 1984, Mike Vianello and numerous other residents of school district*fn5 filed a complaint with DCA challenging the proceedings which led to the adoption of a resolution authorizing the bond issue. On July 11, 13, and 23, 1984, additional taxpayers signed the complaint. In all, 154 taxpayers joined the complaint.
On July 23, 1984, an Answer and Motion to Dismiss were filed on behalf of school district. Argument was heard on the motion to dismiss on July 27, 1984, and, on that date, the Complaint was dismissed and the increase of bonded indebtedness of the school district was approved by DCA. Thereafter, petitioners appealed the dismissal of their complaint to this Court.
The instant case is one of first impression in our Courts, presenting for the first time a question of the
[ 100 Pa. Commw. Page 517]
appropriate standard of review under the Debt Act.*fn6 This Act provides for a quasi-judicial determination, by DCA, of compliance with the requirements of the statute based upon the submission of specified materials. These materials become the evidentiary basis upon which the decision of DCA can be reviewed.
The Debt Act provides a means by which taxpayers of the local government unit, and other "interested parties", may challenge the validity of the proceedings through the filing of a complaint with DCA. 53 P.S. § 678-401(a). However, this action is very narrowly prescribed, restricting inquiry into procedural and substantive matters of the local government unit, taken pursuant to this act, involving only: 1) the regularity of the proceedings, 2) the validity of the bonds, and 3) the legality of the purpose for which such obligations are to be issued. 53 P.S. § 6780-401(b).
Section 902 of the Debt Act provides for appellate review by the Commonwealth Court "of the determination of the department asserting the validity or invalidity of the local government unit proceedings or any part thereof or the error or ...