REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 12 v. TOWN OF BRIDGEWATER, SC 18174
Judicial District of Litchfield
School Districts; Referenda; Powers of Regional School Districts Under General Statutes § 10-56; Whether Proposal to Consolidate Elementary Schools Constitutes an Amendment to Regional District Plan Under General Statutes § 10-47c. When the plaintiff regional school district was formed after a referendum in 1967, the district plan provided that elementary grades K-5 would remain in their hometown schools located in Bridgewater, Roxbury and Washington. The plaintiff has proposed replacing the elementary schools in each of the district towns with a new consolidated elementary school in Roxbury. Its plan was to hold a referendum to appropriate funds to build the school and to issue bonds to finance part of the appropriation under General Statutes § 10-56, which permits a regional school district to issue bonds to raise funds to build schools upon the approval of a majority of voters in the district as a whole. The defendant objected to this procedure. It viewed the 1967 district plan as binding unless amended under General Statutes § 10-47c, which provides that, with certain exceptions, the terms of a plan "approved through referenda . . . may be amended . . . [i]f the majority vote in each town of the district is in favor of the proposed amendment to the plan." Its position was that the proposed referendum could not be held until the plaintiff obtained the approval of a majority of the voters in each town to amend the terms of the district plan. The defendant thus passed a resolution requesting that the district plan be amended to consolidate the elementary schools. Subsequently, the plaintiff filed this declaratory judgment action seeking a ruling on whether the referendum should be conducted pursuant to § 10-56, with the question to be determined by the majority of voters in the district as a whole, or pursuant to § 10-47c, under which the referendum could be defeated by a majority vote against the question in any one town. The defendant counterclaimed, seeking a declaratory judgment that the plaintiff was obligated to proceed under § 10-47c. Relying on Atwood v. Regional School District No. 15, 169 Conn. 613, 623 (1975), which stated that "§ 10-47c applies only to fundamental amendments of the terms of the plan, and does not apply to the issuance of bonds for the construction of new facilities," the trial court ruled that the change in the location of the elementary schools was not a fundamental change in the terms of the regional plan that would require the procedures set forth in § 10-47c to be followed. Accordingly, the court rendered judgment for the plaintiff. On appeal, the defendant contends that the trial court failed to recognize the different purposes of §§ 10-47c and 10-56 and improperly relied on dicta from the Atwood case.