New York (State). Superintendent of Common Schools.

Judicial decisions of the State Superintendent of Common Schools, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, State Commissioner of Education, from 1822 to 1913 online

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years. But it is claimed that such alteration was effected not by the order, but
by the operation of chapter 223 of the Laws of 1881.

It is impossible for me to see how the order appealed from can be upheld.
Indefinite or uncertain boundary lines may be fixed and determined without the
consent of the trustees of the district affected or without the other statutory
proceedings which are prerequisite to an alteration of districts.

The law provides a simple and expeditious way for ascertaining and defining
an uncertain boundary line by a school commissioner, but it does not permit him
to make an alteration in a boundary line without either the consent of the trustees
of the districts afifected or the approval of the board of officers authorized by
law to hear objections and determine the matter.

No principle is better established than that no alteration of a school district
can be effected except by taking the several steps which the statute explicitly
lays down.

The admission that the order being made only for the purpose of defining
a boundary, yet effected an alteration, is fatal to it. The fact that the alteration
affected only a small piece of territory, and that of small value, is not of conse-
quence. Moreover, the alteration effected in the present case may not be inconse-
quential, for I am not prepared to sustain the proposition that chapter 223 of the
Laws of 1 881 worked a permanent and lasting alteration of district boundaries
when it was repealed the following year.

I have had some hesitation about considering this appeal because of the
delay in bringing it before the Department, the explanation of which is not very
satisfactory. But as I can readily see why the fact that an alteration which was
not intended by the commissioner might, not for a considerable time, come to
be understood or appreciated by the people, I have thought it well to overlook the
delay and consider the case. I have not lost sight of the objection of the respond-
ents that the school commissioner had not been served with the papers, and,
dierefore, had not been made a party to the proceeding. I do not think it



684 THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK

important that lie should have been. He is not the real party in interest. The
case has been cared for on the part of the respondents with sufficient ingenuity
and thoroughness to negative the idea that any more help was necessary upon
that side.

The appeal is sustained and the order appealed from is set aside and held to
be inoperative and of no effect.



4004

In the matter of the appeal of Jacob J. Dillenback v. Charles E. Whitney, as
school commissioner of the third school commissioner district of the county
of Jefferson.

A school commissioner, proceeding according to section 13, subdivision i, title 2, of the
Consolidated School Act, made an order intended to define obscure boundary lines of
school districts, but which in eltect set off large farms from one district to another.
Held, irregular and order set aside.

Decided September 15, 1891

H. E. & G. E. Morse, attorneys for appellant

Draper, Superintendent

This is an appeal from an order of the school commissioner of the third com-
missioner district of the county of Jefferson, defining the boundary lines between
districts nos. i and 4 of the town of Lyme in said county. The order was made
on the 31st day of December 1890, being the last day of the term of said Whitney
as school commissioner. This order could not have been intended to work any
alteration in the boundary line referred to. If that was intended, it would have
been necessary for the school commissioner to have received the consent of the
trustees of the districts aft'ected, and in the event of their refusal to give consent,
he could only have made a provisional order; but he proceeded under section 13,
subdivision i, title 2 of the Consolidated School Act, which only provides for
defining an obscure boundary line. Proceeding in this way he could only seek
out the line as originally run and describe and define it accordingly. The papers
in the case satisfy me that more than this was done. Whole farms are transferred
by the operation of this order from one district to the other, and what seems
even more strange, their owners had no notice of the order or its effect for six
months after its date. The order of any public officer, made without notice to
interested parties, and upon his own motion or at the instigation of persons whose
identity is not revealed, upon the last day of his official life, is to be closely
scrutinized. It should not be made at such a time, except for the strongest
reasons. No reasons are manifest for this action. If the boundary line is in
question, is obscure or erroneously defined upon the public records, the incoming
school commissioner could remove the difficulty as well as the outgoing one, and
certainly no action of such character should be taken without the knowledge of
persons who would be interested therein.



JUDICIAL DECISIONS: SCHOOL DISTRICTS — BOUNDARIES 685

The present school commissioner has made answer in the case, although he
seems to have some question as to wliether the order can be sustained. Among
other things he sets up the fact that the residences of men whose farms are
transferred from one district to the other, are nearer the schoolhouse in the
district to wiiich they are transferred than the schoolhouse in the district with
which they have heretofore been affiliated. This possibly might be a reason for
the alteration of a district boundary, but it is not a reason in support of the
order now appealed from, which only assumes to define an obscure boundary.

In view of these considerations, I feel constrained to sustain the appeal and
hold the order appealed from to be void and of no effect.



3676

In the matter of the appeal of Walter A. Ling v. school district no. 8, town of

Martinsburgh, Lewis county.

A school commissioner's order will not be sustained, when by the order the boundary lines
of districts are changed without the consent of the trustees of the districts affected
thereby.

Decided April 6, 1888

Draper, Superintendent

This is an appeal from a tax list made by J. H. Van Aernam, sole trustee of
school district no. 8 in the town of Martinsburgh, Lewis county. The appellant
is included in such tax list.

He insists that he should be taxed in district no. 8 of the town of Turin,
Lewis county, and that he is wrongfully upon the list in the town of Martins-
burgh. It appears that the real estate in question has been taxed for many years
in district no. 8, town of Martinsburgh. The only ground for the objection of
the appellant to the validity of the tax list is an order made by Leonard T. Cole,
school commissioner, on the 27th day of December 1887, in which he states that
after a careful examination of school district boundaries, he finds that the lands
of Walter A. Ling are not within the limits of school district no. 8 of the town
of Martinsburgh, but they do belong to school district no. 8 in the town of Turin.
The school commissioner had no power to change the boundary lines between
district no. 8 in the town of Martinsburgh, and district no. 8 in the town of Turin,
by a simple order under his hand, without the consent of the trustees of the
districts aft'ected thereby. No such consent was given. The commissioner does
not assume to have changed or altered such boundary lines, but only to have
defined a fixed but indefinite one.

The proofs submitted upon this appeal by persons who have been conversant
with the circumstances for a great many years, taken in connection with the fact
that the lands of the appellant have been taxed for many years in district no. 8



686



THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK



111 the town of Martinsburgh, seem to be at variance with the conclusion of the
commissioner.

I can not see my way clear to uphold such an order made just at the expira-
tion of the term of office of the commissioner, the advisability of which seems
to be so strongly opposed by the proofs in the case. The appeal is therefore
dismissed.



3929

In the matter of the appeal of Robert Douglass v. P. H. Martin, as trustee of

school district no. 13, town of Massena, county of St Lawrence.
General acquiescence for a long period of years, supported by parol evidence, that certain

lands formed a part of a school district. Held, .'sufficient to sustain the theory that

tlie lands in question were regularly set into the district and constitute a part thereof.
It must clearly appear that two adjoining farms owned by the same person, lying in

two districts and occupied as one farm, to authorize them to be assessed in one body

in the district in which the occupant resides.
Decided December i, 1890

Draper, Superintendent

Appellant is a resident of the town of Norfolk, St Lawrence county. He
is the owner of two certain lots, one of 65 acres, situate in school district no. 5,
town of I^ouisville, and one of 120 acres, claimed to be situate in district no.
5 of Louisville. These lots adjoin, and there are buildings upon the 65 acres
which the appellant claims are at times occupied by him and his agents and
servants.

.Appellant claims that the entire farm lying in one body should be taxed for
school purposes in district no. 5 of Louisville.

The respondent, the trustees of school district no. 13, town of Massena,
answers the appeal and avers :

That the farm of 120 acres was formerly the property of Aaron C. Allen;
that while in his possession, and about 35 years ago, this land was set ofif from
district no. 5, Louisville, to district no. 13, Massena, and has since been considered
a part of district no. 13, where it has been taxed regularly for school purposes;
that the former owner, Aaron C. Allen, and his son, have successively held the
office of trustee of district no. 13. Massena, while residing upon said preinises ;
that after the transfer of said lands, the site of the schoolhouse was moved to a
point that would better accommodate the inhabitants of such newly acquired ter-
ritory. Respondent denies that the lots in question are occupied by the appellant,
his agent or tenant residing on the lot of 65 acres : that the owner and men
hired to do particular work, go to the farm and occasionally remain over night,
but when their work is done return to their homes and families in other localities.
The respondent presents a statement of the valuation of taxable property in the
respective districts, showing district no. 5 to be the stronger, and district no. 13
to be in debt for the building of a new schoolhouse, and asks that said farm of
appellant of 65 acres be set off to district no. 13 aforesaid.



JUDICIAL decisions: school districts — BOUNDARIES 687

Other allegations are made by the ajipellaiit and denied by the respondent,
which I do not deem material to the disposition of the appeal.

Two questions are presented : first, Is the lot of 120 acres a part of district
no. 5, Louisville, or is it a part of district no. 13, Massena? second, If the lot is
a part of district no. 13, is it taxable in district no. 5 by reason of the facts that
both lots adjoin, and are owned and occupied by the same person, either as
owner or tenant residing on the lot in district no. 5 ?

In support of the first proposition, the appellant alleges that no order setting
.oflF the farm of 120 acres to district no. 13, can upon examination, be found in
the town clerk's office, and that it follows that no such order was made. The
fact before me is clear that, for many years, 35 I think, this property has been
recognized by owners and all district officers, as a part of district no. 13, has
been regularly taxed by district no. 13, and not elsewhere; its occupants have
been recognized as residents and electors of district no. 13, and the further fact
appears that the former owner remembers taking proceedings to have the land
set off into district no. 13.

After such a lapse of time, the long and uniform acquiescence in the fact
that the lands were a part of district no. 13, the incumbrance of the district, its
share of which this land has thus far borne, the possible loss of the commis-
sioner's order from the town clerk's office, I shall not sustain the appellant's
position upon this point. I must hold the lands to be a part of district no. 13,
Massena.

Upon the second proposition, it is not made to appear clearly to me that
the. farms of 65 acres and 120 acres are taxable together in district no. 5. I am
not satisfied that the property is occupied as one farm by the owner or his agent
residing on the lot of 65 acres in district no. 5, Louisville, so as to bring it within
the rule authorizing the taxation of the 120 acres in district no. 5.

The petition of the respondent to have the 65 acres set off to district no. 13,
should be addressed to and decided by the school commissioner, in the first
instance.

The appeal is, therefore, overruled.



4022

In the matter of the appeal of Ralph Wolford v. school district no. 7 of the town

of Knox, county of Albany.
In ascertaining the boundary lines of a school district for the purpose of an assessment of

a parcel of land in the proper district, public records are decisive of the question, and

that they can not be changed by outside proof.
Decided November 18, i8qi

A. R. Hunting, attorney for appellant

Draper, Superintendent

The appellant owns a farm in the school rlistrict above named, consisting
of 130 acres, and also a second farm in the same district consisting of 26 acres.



688 THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK

He also owns a farm of 84 acres situated in the town of Wright in tlie county
of Schoharie. About the ist of January, last, the trustee of school district no. 7
of the town of Knox, issued a tax list to raise money for school purposes, and
included therein the three farms aforesaid. The appellant insists that the farm
of 84 acres should not be taxed in the said district, and brings this appeal to have
the matter determined.

The same question has been presented once before, but without adequate
papers or a map by which the Superintendent could be guided. Leave was
granted to present the matter again.

The real question in the case is as to where the boundary line between dis-
trict no. 7 of the town of Knox, Albany county, and district no. i, of the town
of Wright, Schoharie county, really runs. The appellant insists that the county
boundary line is the boundary line. The respondents insist that it was altered
some years ago, so as to include in district no. 7 of Knox certain lands in the
town of Wright, and among others, the 84 acres in question. The town records
in the town of Wright make the boundary line between the two districts identical
with the boundary line between the two counties. There are no records of school
district boundaries in the town of Knox. District no. 7 of Knox has been
reported to this Department as lying wholly within the town of Knox.

I am of the opinion that these public records are decisive of the question,
and that they can not be changed by outside proof. It therefore follows tliat the
trustee of district no. 7, Knox, fell into an error when he included this farm of
84 acres in the ta.x list appealed from. In consequence of this, the appeal must
be sustained, and the trustee is directed to withdraw arid amend the same by
eliminating therefrom the 84 acres in question.



3821

In the matter of the appeal of Allen T. Goldsmith v. Seneca M. Short, trustee of
school district no. 13, towns of Manchester, Ontario county, and Palmyra,
county of Wayne.

An order made by school commissioners more than 25 years ago, altering district bound-
aries, acquiesced in by repeated acts on the part of one who now collaterally raises the
question of its regularity will be upheld.

Trustees are justified by lapse of time, and general recognition of the action of the school
commissioners, in acting in accordance with the terms of the order.

Land lying partly in two districts, and owned and occupied as one farm, is not to be
assessed as one farm in the district in which the owner resides, unless assessed in one
body on the last revised town assessment roll.

Decided November 6, i88g

H. R. Durfee, attorney for appellant

Draper, Superintendent

It seems that the appellant owns and occupies a farm which the respondent
claims lies partly in the above-named district and partly in district no. 3, towns



JUDICIAL decisions: school districts BOUNDARIES 689

of ralmvra and Arcadia, with the residence in district no. 13. Against tlie olijcc-
tion of the appellant, the respondent has included the entire farm in a tax list
issued on or about the 9th day of September 1889. This appeal is brought for
the purpose of testing the validity of such action.

The appellant claims that no part of his farm is in district no. 13, in conse-
quence of irregularities committed by the school commissioners having jurisdic-
tion, in altering certain district boundaries. He insists that such irregularities
rendered their action invalid. If this were so his farm would be wholly embraced
within district no. 3.

This claim can not be upheld. It is not necessary or proper to determine
that collateral and remote question upon this appeal. It is shown that the action
referred to was taken 25 years ago ; that it was never appealed from or otherwise
questioned, and has been generally recognized by the public, and that the appel-
lant has repeatedly recognized its validity by paying taxes, participating in school
meetings, and serving as trustee of district no. 13. The lapse of time, and the
general recognition of the action of the school commissioners, was sufficient to
justify the respondent in acting in accordance with the terms of the order of the
commissioners.

But there is another question raised by the pleadings. It is alleged by the
appellant, and is uncontroverted, that the entire farm in question is not assessed
as one lot upon the last revised assessment rolls of the town. The part lying
in each school district is assessed by itself. The Legislature of 1889 amended
section 66, title 7 of the Consolidated School Act so as to affect such a case as
this. The statute now contemplates that, in case a farm lies partly in two or
more school districts, the trustees shall only tax so much of it as lies in their
own school district, if that part appears as a separate parcel on the town assess-
ment rolls. It is not the policy of the law to permit trustees to make original
assessments, except where absolutely necessary. The general rule is that they
must, in levying taxes, follow the town assessment rolls which are made by offi-
cers specially chosen with reference to that duty. An entire farm lying in two
districts is to be taxed for school purposes in that district containing the residence
only " if assessed as one lot on the last assessment roll of the town after revision
by the assessors."

This precludes the respondent from assessing the entire farm of the appel-
lant in his district, and it becomes necessary to sustain the appeal so far as to
direct the respondent to withdraw his tax list and correct the same by striking
therefrom the item descriptive of or referring to that portion of the farm of the
appellant not lying in district no. 13.

The appeal is sustained.



690 THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK

3804

In the matter of the appeal of scliool flistrict no. 13, of the town of Greene,
Chenango county v. Marcus N. Morton, school commissioner of the second
district of Chenango county, and school district no. 22 of said town.

An orck-r of a school commissioner defining a disputed boundary line between scliool dis-
tricts will be sustained, unless it is clearly made to appear that the commissioner has
erred in his proceedings. It is to be assumed that he has acted regularly and discreetly.

Decided August i.



Eugene Clifton, attorney for appellants

Draper, Superintendent

1 his is an appeal from an order made by the school commissioner of the
second commissioner district of Chenango county, made on the 22d day of Jan-
uary 1889, defining the boundary line between school districts nos. 13 and 22
of the town of Greene.

The result of the order of the commissioner involves a strip of land in no.
22, which had previously been sui)posed to be in no. 13. Accordingly, no. 13 is
aggrieved, as this reduces the taxable valuation of the district. There is no ques-
tion raised as to school accommodations, and it is said there are few, if any, chil-
dren of school age living upon the land in dispute.

The determination of the commissioner is stoutly resisted by district no. 13,
even to an extent beyond that for which any apparent cause exists.

Whether the commissioner has correctly defined the boundary line between
the two districts, that is, has laid it out where it was originally placed, is an
obscure question, and one exceedingly difficult of determination upon written
papers. The papers submitted are voluminous, and relate almost exclusively to
old records and statements or understandings of people either dead or very aged.
They have been read with care, and more than once. It is next to impossible to
gain any intelligent understanding of the matter in dispute, after the most
studied examination of the papers.

Inasmuch as the appellant does not satisfy me that the order of the commis-
sioner is wrong, I must affirm it. This is done without prejudice to the right of
the appellant to raise the question again if there is any sufficient reason why it
should be raised. If district no. 13 is very seriously aggrieved, it ought to be
able to show the fact. The commissioner appears to have attended to the mat-
ter with painstaking care, stoutly insists that his order defines the boundary
rightly, and adduces much proof to sustain his conclusions. This action should
he upheld until it is made clearly to appear that he is in error.

The appeal is dismissed.



JUDICIAL DECISIONS : SCHOOL DISTRICTS — BOUNDARIES 69I

5156

In the matter of the appeal of school district no. i, town of Mount Hope, Orange
county, from the action of School Commissioner Kaufmann in issuing an
order to correct or amend the boundary line between school district no. I,
Mount Hope, and no. 3, Green\ille.

A school commissioner does not possess power under subdivision I of section 13 of title I
of the Consolidated School Law to modify or alter the disputed boundaries of school
districts. He possesses the power to examine the records and to detciinine what the
boundaries of such districts really are and to issue orders accordingly.

Decided December 2, 1904

William T. Shaw, attorney for appellant

Draper, Couunissioncr

On September i, 1904, Williain P. Kaufmann, school commissioner of the
second commissioner district of Orange county, issued an order for the purpose
of correcting or amending the boundary line between school district no. i, Mount
Hope, and school district no. 3, Greenville. The real question to be determined
by such order of the commissioner is, in which of these two districts should the
property of Ephraim Manning be located.

It appears that this question was first raised in the year 1901. In that year
the Manning property was assessed in each school district. In March 1903 Mr
Manning commenced an action against school district no. 3, Greenville, to recover
the taxes which he claimed to have erroneously paid that district. The case was
tried in the county court of Orange county. That court held that the Manning
property was located in school district no. i, Mount Hope, and was not, there-
fore, assessable in school district no. 3, Greenville. To reach a decision on the
question it was necessary to determine the boundary line between such districts.
The court held that the town line between the towns of Mount Hope and Green-
ville was the boundary line between these two school districts.

The Greenville district was evidently dissatisfied with such decision and the
trustee thereof petitioned School Commissioner Kaufmann, on May 5, 1904, to
fix definitely the boundary line between such districts.

Subdivision i of section 13, title 5 of the Consolidated School Law confers
on a school commissioner the power to amend the records of the boundaries of
a school district when the same shall be indefinite or in dispute. It was under
this provision of law that the school commissioner proceeded in this case. The
commissioner did not possess the power, under this provision of law, to modify
or alter the boundaries of either of these districts. He possessed the power to



Online LibraryNew York (State). Superintendent of Common SchoolsJudicial decisions of the State Superintendent of Common Schools, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, State Commissioner of Education, from 1822 to 1913 → online text (page 86 of 188)