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Town of Wells v. Town of Ogunquit
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MAINE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT					Reporter of Decisions
Decision:	2001 ME 122
Docket: 	Yor-01-159
Argued:  	June 12, 2001
Decided:	July 25, 2001




	[¶1]  The Town of Wells appeals from the summary judgment entered
in the Superior Court (York County, Fritzsche, J.) declaring that a private law
which revises the funding formula for the Wells-Ogunquit Community School
District, P. & S.L. 1999, ch. 83, does not violate the unfunded mandate
provision of the Maine Constitution, Me. Const. art. IX, § 21.  The Town of
Ogunquit cross-appeals arguing that Wells lacks standing and that the action
is barred by the enrolled bill doctrine.  The State of Maine appears as a party
to defend the constitutionality of the law.  We affirm the judgment.
	[¶2]  Ogunquit was once part of Wells.  When Ogunquit was authorized
to separate from Wells, the voters of both towns approved the creation of a
community school district for the two towns and authorized the funding of
the school district based upon each town's state valuation.  Specifically, the
funding formula was as follows:  "One hundred percent of the total will be
assessed between the towns in the same proportion as the state valuation of
each town for the year preceding that year to which the budget applies bears
to the total for both towns."  P. & S.L. 1979, ch. 45, § 6. 
	[¶3]  The funding formula for the school district was amended by
P. & S.L. 1999, ch. 83.  The new formula results in a greater funding
obligation for Wells.  Now, only a portion of the school district's funding is
allocated according to the respective state valuations of each town.  The
remainder of the district's funding is met by an assessment based on the
average number of students of each town who are educated at public
expense.  Specifically, for the fiscal year 2000-01, 88.9% of the school
district's expenses are met by using the state valuations.  P. & S.L. 1999, ch.
83, § 1(1).  That percentage is to decrease each year for the next two years. 
For fiscal year 2001-02, the percentage of the district's expenses that is to
be met by the state valuations is 77.8, id. at § 1(2), and for the following
fiscal year, that percentage decreases to 66.7, id. at § 1(3).  Because Wells
has more pupils attending school than Ogunquit, the formula change means
that Wells' proportion of the school district expense will increase while
Ogunquit's share will decrease.
	[¶4]  The officials of Wells aver that if the school district's expenses
remain as budgeted Wells will pay approximately $338,000 more in fiscal
year 2000-01 under the new formula than it would have had to pay under
the original formula.  The officials allege that Wells has had to increase its
tax rate to meet its obligations under the revised funding formula.
	[¶5]  Wells filed an action in Superior Court seeking a declaration that
statutory revision of the school district funding formula violates the
constitutional amendment against unfunded mandates.  Me. Const. art. IX,
§ 21.  The Superior Court rejected Ogunquit's challenge to Wells' standing
to raise the constitutional issue.{1}  Ogunquit also claimed the court action was
an impermissible challenge to the manner in which legislation was enacted,
and the court rejected that claim as well.{2}  Reaching the merits of Wells'
contention that the revised funding formula violates the constitutional
prohibition against unfunded mandates, the Superior Court concluded that
the new funding formula does not require Wells to expand or modify its
activities, and, therefore, the revised formula does not run afoul of the
constitutional provision.
	[¶6]  The constitutional provision at issue, Me. Const. art. IX, § 21,
provides as follows:
	For the purpose of more fairly apportioning the cost of
government and providing local property tax relief, the State
may not require a local unit of government to expand or modify
that unit's activities so as to necessitate additional expenditures
from local revenues unless the State provides annually 90% of
the funding for these expenditures from State funds not
previously appropriated to that local unit of government. 
Legislation implementing this section or requiring a specific
expenditure as an exception to this requirement may be enacted
upon the vote of 2/3 of all members elected to each House.  This
section must be liberally construed.
	[¶7]  For purposes of this case, the key words of the amendment are: 
"[T]he State may not require a local unit of government to expand or modify
that unit's activities so as to necessitate additional expenditures from local
revenues . . . ."  Although the remainder of the amendment is equally
important, its requirements do not come into play until this first portion of
the amendment is met.  Unless the State has done something to require
Wells to expand or modify its activities so that Wells has to spend more local
money for that expansion or modification, the remainder of the amendment
is not relevant.  Thus, we must determine whether the revised funding
formula requires Wells to expand or modify its activities so that it has to
expend more local revenue for that expansion or modification.
	[¶8]  Wells argues that by changing the funding formula the State is
requiring it to modify its activities.  It contends that increasing its tax rate is
a modification of its activities.  We disagree.  The State has not required
Wells to expand or modify its activities.  It is not being required to build a
new transportation system or provide computers to all of its residents.  It is
not being required to expand or modify the educational program of the
school district.  It does not have to hire more teachers or provide new
courses.  Presumably such requirements would be expansions that would
necessitate the town to expend additional revenues.
	[¶9]  The harsh reality is that Wells' portion of the funding formula has
been increased, and Wells will have to spend more money if the school
budget remains as is.  The reality also is that Wells controls the votes on the
board of the school district.  P. & S.L. 1985, ch. 93.  Wells, not the State,
controls the expenditures of the school district.
	[¶10]  The State has not required Wells to raise taxes, and the State
has not required Wells to expand or modify its activities.  The revised
funding formula for the school district does not violate section 21 of Article
IX of the Maine Constitution.
	[¶11]  Because the State has not required any action on the part of
Wells that mandates an expansion or modification of its activities, the first
portion of the constitutional amendment is not implicated.  The remainder
of the provision, therefore, is not relevant to this controversy.  For that
reason, we do not reach the issue of whether we can consider the manner in
which the Legislature enacted the revised funding formula.  Whether it was
enacted by a simple majority or by two-thirds of all members carries no
	The entry is:
			Judgment affirmed.

Attorneys for plaintiff: Durward W. Parkinson, Esq., (orally) Susan Bernstein Driscoll, Esq. Bergen & Parkinson, LLC 62 Portland Road Kennebunk, ME 04043 Attorneys for defendants: Sidney St. F. Thaxter, Esq., Charles J. Micoleau, Esq., (orally) Justin D. LeBlanc, Esq. Curtis Thaxter Stevens Broder & Micoleau, LLC P O Box 7320 Portland, ME 04112-7320 (for Town of Ogunquit) G. Steven Rowe, Attorney General Sarah A. Forster, Asst. Attorney General (orally) William H. Laubenstein III, Asst. Attorney General 6 State House Station Augusta, ME 04333-0006 (for State of Maine) Attorneys for intervenor: Deirdre M. Smith, Esq., (orally) Richard A. Spencer, Esq. Durmmond Woodsum & MacMahon P O Box 9781 Portland, ME 04104-5081 (for Wells-Ogunquit Community School District)
FOOTNOTES******************************** {1} . We will not belabor the standing issue. In a nutshell, Ogunquit claims that Wells has no standing because section 21 of Article IX of the Maine Constitution does not grant municipalities an entitlement to be free from unfunded mandates. We do not agree. Wells, as a unit of local government directly affected by a legislative enactment, has standing to challenge the constitutionality of that amendment. {2} . Both Ogunquit and the State argue that Wells' action is barred by the enrolled bill doctrine. Under the "enrolled bill rule" an enrolled act cannot be impeached by the showing of any irregularity in its passage. Weeks v. Smith, 81 Me. 538, 547, 18 A. 325, 327 (1889). For reasons discussed below, we do not reach this issue.