Member Towns in a Cooperative School District Need Not Share All Costs Equally

Town of Acworth & a. v. Fall Mountain Regional School District
Town of Acworth & a. v. Fall Mountain Regional School District
Docket No. 2003-791
Thursday, September 2, 2004

The Fall Mountain Regional School District was formed in 1966 in accordance with what is now RSA 195:18. The district consists of five towns: Acworth, Alstead, Langdon, Charlestown and Walpole. The district adopted an amendment to the articles of agreement that changed the method of assigning expenses for the elementary portion of the educational program among the towns, and also changed the allocation of certain capital expenditures. Essentially, instead of having these expenses allocated throughout the district based upon average daily pupil membership and equalized valuation, the new method obliged member towns to pay only for the services that they use. Three of the towns objected to this change, and sought to invalidate the amendment.

The plaintiffs contended that for these portions of the educational program, the effect of the amendment was nearly to put the individual towns in the same position financially as they would have been if they never joined the cooperative. The Supreme Court found that member towns in cooperative school districts are not required to share each and every expense of the district, and even if this were the practical impact of the change, the amendment was still lawful.

The legislature has granted cooperative school districts wide latitude to determine how educational and capital expenses will be apportioned among member towns. Within each cooperative district, educational costs may be allocated by the members themselves using methods that do not compel each member to share in each item of cost. In this case, the Court has shown that it will not intervene in matters of cooperative school district governance in the absence of clear deviation from the express language of the statute.