Wayne Cnty. Sch. Dist. v. Quitman Sch. Dist.

Decision Date28 July 2022
Docket Number2020-CA-00499-SCT
Citation346 So.3d 853
Parties WAYNE COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT v. QUITMAN SCHOOL DISTRICT and The School Board of the Quitman School District v. Keith Clay, Ben Graves, Leah Parson, Fred Andrews, Charles Chapman, Jimmy D. Barnett, and Terry Graham
CourtMississippi Supreme Court





¶1. Before the Court is a dispute between Quitman School District and Wayne County School District as to whether the disbursement of past revenues generated from sixteenth section land located in townships shared by the two school districts and received by Wayne County School District should be shared when Quitman School District failed to meet a one year statutory prescription.


¶2. By design, the sixteenth section of each township in Mississippi was set aside and granted to the state to provide for the public education of the children residing in the township. The primary trustee for all sixteenth sections is the state. Acting through the Legislature, the state enacted legislation as to how the lands would be managed. Title 29, chapter 3, of the Mississippi Code sets forth the terms of the school trust. Section 29-3-1(1) provides:

Sixteenth section school lands, or lands held in lieu thereof, constitute property held in trust for the benefit of the public schools and must be treated as such. The board of education under the general supervision of the state land commissioner [now, the Secretary of State, Miss. Code Ann. § 29-3-2 (Rev. 2020)] shall have control and jurisdiction of said school trust lands and of all funds arising from any disposition thereof heretofore or hereafter made. It shall be the duty of the board of education to manage the school trust lands and all funds arising therefrom as trust property.

Miss. Code Ann. § 29-3-1(1) (Rev. 2020). "Board of Education" is defined as "that school board of the school district in whose present jurisdiction (I) is situated a sixteenth section of land, or (ii) was originally situated a sixteenth section of land for which for which land has been granted in lieu thereof." Mississippi. Code Ann. § 29-3-1.1(a) (Rev. 2020).

¶3. Mississippi Code Section 29-3-119(2) requires that when more than one school district is in a township, the "available funds" will be shared in proportion to the number of students residing and enrolled in that portion of the township within each school district as determined by annual lists of educable children made and provided in accordance with Mississippi Code Section 29-3-121 (Rev. 2020). Mississippi Code Section 29-3-119(2) (Rev. 2020) provides: "The school district having jurisdiction and control of the sixteenth section ... lands in the township (the ‘custodial school district’) shall pay to each other school district lying wholly or partly in the township which is entitled to a part of the township funds the district's pro rata share of the available township funds , as determined from the lists of children prepared pursuant to Section 29-3-121, promptly after collecting such funds." Miss. Code Ann. § 29-3-119(4) (Rev. 2020) (emphasis added). "Any district entitled to such funds which is not paid promptly may assert a claim against the custodial school district for its share of the funds not later than twelve (12) months from the end of the calendar year in which the custodial school district collected such funds." Id . (emphasis added).

¶4. Section 29-3-121 calls for the list of educable children to be made and filed with the custodial district on or before December 31 of each year and provides that the lists shall be used by the superintendent of the custodial district for the division of available funds "during the ensuing calendar year[.]" Miss. Code Ann. § 29-3-121. The statute specifically states that "[a]ny school district failing to timely provide the list to the superintendent of the custodial school district shall forfeit its right to such funds" unless the school boards of the districts execute a written agreement to the contrary. Id .

¶5. To emphasize the requirement that the noncustodial district must timely submit the student list before it is entitled to receive any available funds from the custodial district, Mississippi Code Section 29-3-123 makes it unlawful for any township funds to be "paid over to school districts ... until lists of the children residing in each district or part of district within such township who are enrolled in the schools thereof have been made ...." Miss. Code Ann. § 29-3-123 (Rev. 2020) (emphasis added). "Such lists shall be made annually before any payment of the expendable sixteenth section revenues shall be made to school districts as provided in Sections 29-3-115 through 29-3-123." Id. (emphasis added).

¶6. Quitman School District and Wayne County School District share Township 10 North, Range 6 West ("10-6"), Township 10 North, Range 7 West ("10-7"), Township 10 North, Range 8 West ("10-8"), and Township 10 North, Range 9 West ("10-9"), with all four townships located along the boundary line between Wayne County and Clarke County. The sixteenth sections in townships 10-6 and 10-7 are entirely in the Wayne County School District, and the sixteenth section in township 10-9 is entirely in the Quitman School District. Id . The sixteenth section in township 10-8 is divided by the Clarke-Wayne boundary line.

¶7. In 1998, in response to a report by the state auditor's office finding that school districts in Mississippi were not making annual lists of educable children by township and were not properly allocating sixteenth section land funds, Quitman School District and Wayne County School District began exchanging lists of students residing within shared townships. After the exchange of lists began, Wayne County School District shared on a pro rata basis with Quitman School District the available funds derived from shared townships every year from that point forward, with the exception of the expendable sixteenth section revenue from the royalties produced by a single oil and gas well on 10-7, a sixteenth section located entirely within the Wayne County School District.

¶8. The present dispute began when Quitman School District discovered that oil and gas production was ongoing on 10-7 without funds related to that production being included in the pro rata distribution.

¶9.In June 2011, when the issue was brought to Wayne County School District, Wayne County School District requested an attorney general opinion regarding how far back in time Wayne County School District would have to go to pay Quitman School District in full for unpaid shared revenues. The attorney general's office stated that Section 29-3-119 established a one year statute of limitations for any claim by Quitman School District for unpaid shared revenues or whether a statute of limitations applied. Miss. Att'y Gen. Op., No. 2011-00443, 2011 WL 6813973, Dickerson , (Nov. 4, 2011), at *2. As a result, Wayne County School District paid Quitman School District a pro rata share of sixteenth section revenue related to the oil and gas production on 10-7 from January 1, 2010, forward, including a pro rata portion of royalties derived from oil and gas production.

¶10. The procedural history of the case sub judice began in 2011, when Quitman School District filed suit against Wayne County School District seeking, among other things, an allocation of available funds from July 1, 1978, through September 1998—a period of time before the districts prepared or exchanged lists of educable children—as well as an allocation of revenues, including royalty payments, from oil and gas production in 10-7 for all years prior to 2010. On August 27, 2012, Wayne County School District filed a motion to dismiss Quitman School District's amended complaint due to the requirement of Section 29-3-119(4) that a school district must "assert a claim against the custodial school district for its share of the funds not later than twelve (12) months from the end of the calendar year in which the custodial school district collected such funds." On December 17, 2012, Wayne County School District filed a motion for partial summary judgment, contending that under Section 29-3-119(4), Wayne County School District was entitled to partial summary judgment on any claim for funds asserted by Quitman School District concerning or relating to any sixteenth section funds collected by Wayne County School District prior to January 1, 2010. In the alternative, Wayne County School District argued that Section 29-3-119(4) is not a statute of limitations but rather a legislative pronouncement governing the method and procedure for allocation of shared revenue. In response, Quitman School District filed a cross-motion for partial summary judgment, arguing, in part, that the alleged one-year statute of limitations within Section 29-3-119 conflicts with the Mississippi Constitution and Mississippi Code Section 15-1-51 (Rev. 2019) and is, therefore, unconstitutional.

¶11. On April 2, 2013, the chancery court issued a letter finding that Jones County School District v. Department of Revenue , 111 So. 3d 588 (Miss. 2013), "seems to answer the question about the statute of limitations issue" but that "[it will be incumbent upon [Quitman School District] to demonstrate to the Court that the lists] of educable children, pursuant to Miss. Code Ann. § 29-3-123, were in fact submitted to [Wayne County School District] for each year [Quitman School District] asserts nonpayment by [Wayne County School District] to [Quitman School District]." The Court stated that "[should [Quitman School District] be unable to show evidence of the submission of the list of educable children for each...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT