KEENE — A lawyer representing the Contoocook Valley Regional School District says the state now owes him close to $130,000 in fees.
Michael Tierney, who represents the ConVal, Winchester, Monadnock and Mascenic school districts in a lawsuit over education adequacy grants, filed an affidavit in Cheshire Superior Court seeking payment. According to the affidavit, Tierney claims $129,415 is owed for work done since last June.
ConVal filed the lawsuit against the New Hampshire Department of Education, Commissioner Frank Edelblut, and Gov. Chris Sununu in March, seeking a nearly three-fold increase in the state education adequacy spending, increasing grants from about $3,600 per pupil to close to $10,000.
County Judge David Ruoff ruled in favor of the local districts last month, sending a signal to the legislature to increase spending. He also ruled that state taxpayers should pay attorney fees for the district.
The district has since asked the state for reconsideration and an immediate $3 million cash infusion to pay local student transportation expenses.
In his affidavit, Tierney claims he and his associates have worked more than 600 billable hours since consultations started in June of 2018. Of that, Tierney says he’s owed for 400 hours.
Tierney wrote that the decision was made last year to wait on filing the lawsuit, ostensibly to allow the legislature time to correct the professed adequacy shortfall.
In June of 2018, there was hope new legislation would bring the adequacy grants up to the $9,000 range. The lawsuit was prepared in case the proposed law, HB678, which increased the state spending, failed. When it failed to get out of committee in February of this year, the district decided to sue, Tierney wrote.
ConVal claims the state is violating the New Hampshire Constitution and is in violation of the Claremont New Hampshire Supreme Court decisions. The Claremont decisions from the 1980s and 1990s found that the state is constitutionally obligated to provide an “adequate education.” Tierney argued that using the state’s own data, compiled by the DOE, and the legislature’s formula for deciding the adequacy grant funding, the true grant per pupil should be around $10,000 and not $3,600.