Judge grants Bath the right to intervene in West Bath’s $1.9M lawsuit against school district

Posted Jan. 10, 2013, at 12:55 p.m.

BATH, Maine — The city of Bath has won the right to intervene in neighboring West Bath’s lawsuit against Regional School Unit 1.

The ruling Tuesday by Justice Andrew M. Horton in Sagadahoc Superior Court paves the way for Bath to ally with RSU 1 officials in a dispute over cost sharing.

West Bath seeks $1.9 million in damages it says it sustained under the school unit’s former cost-sharing formula. Attorneys representing Bath argued in court Tuesday that Bath would be assessed $1.6 million should West Bath prevail.

Separately, RSU 1 and Bath will file a motion to dismiss the West Bath lawsuit. Horton will hear oral arguments on that motion on March 5.

“They do have a stake in the case,” Horton said regarding Bath’s motion. “I lean to think that they probably should have a seat at the table.”

Sally Daggett, representing West Bath, told Horton that the other three RSU 1 towns should have the same opportunity to intervene as Bath. Phippsburg also would benefit should West Bath win its case.

“Maybe Bath could invite Phippsburg,” Daggett said.

Horton didn’t disagree.

“But this could have a drastic impact on Bath,” Horton said. “It’s not incumbent on Bath to bring in the others. The court won’t order anybody to join anybody. Other towns who want to participate need to do it sooner rather than later.”

David Ray and Travis Brennan represented Bath during Tuesday’s court session. David Kallin was there on behalf of RSU 1.

Kallin stated that RSU 1 has no objection to Bath or any other school unit town intervening.

“The case could be dismissed with or without Bath’s intervention, but they are an indispensable party,” Kallin said.

West Bath alleges that the cost-sharing formula once used by RSU 1 violates state law. Earlier this year, RSU 1 reverted to a formula that allocates school costs based one-third on student population, one-third on town valuation and one-third on student population.

The lawsuit states the formula RSU 1 used to assess member towns in 2009-10 employed a calculation that does not comply with an earlier formula required after the Legislature mandated school consolidation.

West Bath is fine with the current plan — which is under sharp scrutiny by at least three RSU 1 member towns — but says it has been overcharged by as much as $1.9 million.

Regarding the motion to dismiss, RSU 1 claims that West Bath is too late with its court filing.

“Maine law says assessments can only go back one year,” Horton said. “Bath and RSU 1 both argue that. Assessments are central to West Bath’s claim. There’s not much dispute about what happened. All agree it was incorrectly applied.”

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