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BARBARA H. CONNERS v. WEST GREENE SCHOOL DISTRICT ET AL. (12/21/89)

decided: December 21, 1989.

BARBARA H. CONNERS, TAXPAYER INDIVIDUALLY, AND ON BEHALF OF OTHER TAXPAYERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, APPELLANT,
v.
WEST GREENE SCHOOL DISTRICT ET AL., APPELLEES



Appeal from Common Pleas Court, Greene County, Honorable George P. Kiester, Judge.

COUNSEL

Peter M. Suwak, Washington, D.C., for appellant.

Barbara A. Rizzo, with her, Robert T. Crothers, Peacock, Keller, Yohe, Day & Ecker, Washington, D.C., for appellees.

Doyle, Judge.

Author: Doyle

[ 131 Pa. Commw. Page 97]

This litigation began when a taxpayer, Barbara H. Conners, sought to overturn the decision of the West Greene School Board (Board) to adopt a budget for the fiscal year 1988-89 beginning July 1, 1988, authorizing a five mill property tax increase. The Court of Common Pleas of Greene County sustained West Greene School District's (District) demurrer to Conners' statutory appeal and she appeals from that order.*fn1

Our scope of review of a trial court's order sustaining preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer is to

[ 131 Pa. Commw. Page 98]

    determine whether the trial court's interpretation of the law is correct, i.e., whether or not the facts pled are legally sufficient to permit the action to continue. Cooley v. East Norriton Township, 78 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 11, 466 A.2d 765 (1983). It is, therefore, of critical consequence that we review the pertinent allegations pled in Appellant's complaint. They are as follows:

6. The adoption of this budget, with the concomitant five mill increase in tax rates, is contrary to law and otherwise improper, based upon the following:

(a) Initially, the final budget was not passed since a motion to cut various programs was defeated. At some point, after the initial opening of the meeting, board member Yoders was brought in to cast the decisive vote. Further, pursuant to published news accounts, following a brief recess, during which several board members grouped together apparently to discuss the matter, the budget motion was again introduced and approved. A true and correct copy of said news account, dated July 1, 1988, from the Observer-Reporter, is here attached as Exhibit "A".

(b) Pursuant to the Sunshine Act (65 P.S. § 271, et seq.), the above described procedure is unlawful. . . .

7. Additionally, and alternatively, the adoption of the budget, with the concomitant five mill increase in property tax, constitutes arbitrary conduct, a palpable abuse of discretion, knowing waste of taxpayer resources, or is otherwise improper, based upon the following:

(a) The Board improperly budgeted tax revenue in fiscal year 1987-1988. More specifically, revenues anticipated were calculated on the basis of a thirty per cent property tax ratio. However, said thirty per cent ratio was illegal as inconsistent with the state board equalization amounts, as found by the Greene County Court in the tax appeal of C.N.G. Coal. As a result of that appeal, the Board has been forced to borrow approximately Two Hundred Five Thousand Dollars ($205,000.00) for its 1987-88 unfunded financial obligations.

[ 131 Pa. Commw. Page 99]

The Board has done so from the Community Bank at a rate of 8.25 per cent interest. . . .

(b) A [bond] issue for the construction of a new middle school in an amount in excess of five million dollars is illegal and improper. More specifically, the bond issue never received approval of the electorate in a referendum as required by 24 P.S. § 6-632. . . .

(d) Numerous budget items constitute the apparent knowing waste of taxpayer resources. These items include, but are not limited to the following:

1. The cafeteria fund has sustained a substantial loss (approximately $45,000.00). This loss, should not have occurred with proper oversight especially as mandated by 24 P.S. § 5-504. This loss should be surcharged, but not ...


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