BEDFORD — A Superior Court judge has ruled that the New Hampshire Department of Education must pay the local school district more than $4 million in education funding.
The Bedford School District previously filed a civil lawsuit against the state, the DOE and other entities seeking adequacy grants owed to the school system from fiscal year 2016.
The court proceeding was prompted after a separate Superior Court ruling last year determined that the state’s cap on adequacy grants to public schools is unconstitutional, and therefore mandated that the Dover school system be rewarded its $1.4 million shortfall owed from the previous fiscal year.
Bedford was hit the hardest from the state’s annual cap on adequacy funding grants. The school system was originally set to obtain about $8.4 million, but instead received less than $4.4 million.
“This notice of decision orders the state pay the total amount over $4 million from fiscal year 2016 to the school district prior to May 1,” Superintendent Chip McGee told the school board this week.
While the ruling, which was issued last week by Judge David Ruoff of Cheshire County Superior Court, could still be appealed, McGee said he is pleased with the court’s decision.
“It was, from my reading, a pretty definitive win for the Bedford School District,” McGee said of the ruling, adding it justified the decision by the school board to pursue litigation.
In Ruoff’s ruling granting summary judgment, Ruoff said “the state was obligated by statute and the New Hampshire Constitution to disburse those funds to the Bedford School District.”
Although fiscal year 2016 has ended, the court maintains that by issuing the adequacy grants that were initially withheld, it will now mitigate the harm caused by the state’s failure to provide a constitutionally adequate education.
“The court finds that an award of attorney’s fees in this matter is appropriate because the state has always promised to pay, yet never has,” ruled Ruoff. “It even made such representations in order to prevent the filing of the suit.
“This lawsuit was necessary to enforce compliance with the statute and to compel the state to comply with promises and representations it made … ,” stated Ruoff, ordering the funds to be distributed to the district within 30 days of April 1.
McGee remains optimistic, but warned school officials that a motion for reconsideration could potentially be filed by the state or the DOE.
“Right now we are waiting to see what they do,” he said, adding the taxpayers of Bedford should still be informed about the case and the recent ruling.