FRED S. TEEBOOM
CITY OF NASHUA DANIEL MORIARTY
MAYOR, CITY OF NASHUA & a.
Argued: May 8, 2019
Hillsborough-southern judicial district
Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C., of Concord (Charles G.
Douglas, III on the brief and orally), for plaintiff Fred S.
of Corporation Counsel, of Nashua (Steven A. Bolton and
Dorothy S. Clarke on the memorandum of law, and Mr. Bolton
orally), for the defendants.
Fred S. Teeboom appeals an order of the Superior Court
(Temple, J.) dismissing his claims for declaratory,
injunctive, and mandamus relief based upon the court's
determination that the budget spending cap in the Nashua
city charter is unenforceable because it violates state law.
trial court found the following facts. The spending cap was
added to the Nashua city charter in November 1993. As quoted
by the trial court, the spending cap provides:
Recognizing that final tax rates for the City are set by the
New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration . . . the
Mayor, the [Board of Aldermen], and all departments in the
City . . . shall prepare their annual budget proposals and
the [Board of Aldermen] shall act upon such proposals in
accordance with the mandates in this paragraph.
In establishing a combined annual municipal budget . . . for
the next fiscal year, the Mayor and the [Board of Aldermen]
shall consider total expenditures not to exceed an amount
equal to the [combined annual municipal budget] of the
current fiscal year, increased by a [specified] factor . . .
This provision shall not prevent the Mayor and [Board of
Aldermen] from establishing a [combined annual municipal
budget] below this limit.
This provision shall not prevent the Mayor and the [Board of
Aldermen] from appropriately funding any programs or accounts
mandated to be paid from municipal funds by state and federal
(Brackets and ellipsis omitted.)
Nashua city charter also outlines exemptions to the spending
The total or any part of principal and interest payments of
any municipal bond, whether established for school or
municipal purposes, may be exempted from the limitation
defined in [the spending cap provision] upon an affirmative
vote of at least ten (10) aldermen. This decision shall be
In addition, capital expenditures deemed necessary by the
mayor and the board of aldermen, . . . may similarly be
exempted from this limitation upon an affirmative vote of at
least ten (10) aldermen.
April 2017, by a vote of nine to six, the Nashua Board of
Aldermen (board) passed an ordinance exempting the entire
wastewater treatment fund from the combined annual municipal
budget. Later that month, Nashua's mayor proposed a
budget for fiscal year 2018 that, consistent with the
ordinance, removed the wastewater treatment fund from the
spending cap calculation. In so doing, the mayor did not
adjust for the fact that the 2017 combined annual municipal
budget included $8.1 million of wastewater treatment funds
that were not included in the proposed 2018 combined annual
municipal budget. This process had the effect of allowing the
mayor to allocate a significant amount of additional funds to
other areas without running afoul of the spending cap.
surface, the proposed 2018 combined annual municipal budget
appeared to comply with the spending cap. The maximum
allowable budget pursuant to the cap was $267, 517, 084, and
the 2018 combined annual municipal budget was $265, 598, 979.
Faced with a proposed 2018 combined annual municipal budget
purporting to be $1, 918, 105 below the spending cap, the
board voted, ten to five, to adopt that budget.
Teeboom brought the instant lawsuit against the City of
Nashua (City), asking the trial court to enforce the spending
cap provision on the ground that the ordinance exempting the
wastewater treatment fund from the combined annual municipal
budget violated that provision. Teeboom contended that the
wastewater treatment fund does not qualify for exemption from
the spending cap and that, even if it did, such an exemption
may be made only by an annual vote of a supermajority of ten
aldermen. Because the ordinance was adopted by only nine
aldermen, Teeboom contended that, even if the wastewater
treatment fund could be excluded from the spending cap, the
ordinance was ineffective to accomplish this objective.
Teeboom also asserted that the board's vote on the
proposed 2018 budget did not amount to a vote to exempt the
wastewater treatment fund from the spending cap because the
vote was not labeled as such.
City countered that the ordinance was validly enacted.
Alternatively, the City argued that, even if the ordinance
violates the spending cap, the 2018 budget is valid because a
supermajority of the board impliedly voted to override the
spending cap by adopting the mayor's proposed budget. The
City also argued that Teeboom lacked standing to bring his
a bench trial, the trial court ruled that Nashua's
spending cap is unenforceable because it does not contain an
override provision as required by state law. See RSA
49-C:12, III, :33, I(d) (2012). The court found that the
charter provision allowing a supermajority of the board to
exempt from the spending cap municipal bond and capital
expenditures did not constitute the requisite override
provision. The court decided that because the spending cap
was unenforceable, it could not provide redress for
Teeboom's alleged injury and, therefore, that he lacks
standing to bring his claims. Having so ruled, the trial
court dismissed Teeboom's action. This appeal followed.
Plaintiff Daniel Moriarty, whose separate action challenging
the ordinance and the 2018 budget was consolidated in the
trial court with Teeboom's action, has not appeared in
addressing the merits of Teeboom's appellate arguments,
we consider the City's assertion that he lacks standing.
For the purposes of our analysis, we assume without deciding
that, as the City argues, the 2018 amendments to Part I,
Article 8 of the State Constitution, related to taxpayer
standing, do not apply to this case.
the relevant facts are not in dispute, we review de
novo the trial court's determination on standing.
State v. Actavis Pharma, 170 N.H. 211, 214 (2017).
"[S]tanding under the New Hampshire Constitution
requires parties to have personal legal or equitable rights
that are adverse to one another, with regard to an actual,
not hypothetical, dispute, which is capable of judicial
redress." Duncan v. State, 166 N.H. 630, 642-43
(2014) (citations omitted). "In evaluating whether a
party has standing to sue, we focus on whether the party
suffered a legal injury against which the law was designed to
protect." Actavis Pharma, 170 N.H. at 215
(quotation omitted). "Neither an abstract interest in
ensuring that the State Constitution is observed nor an
injury indistinguishable from a generalized wrong allegedly
suffered by the public at large is sufficient to constitute a
personal, concrete interest." Id. (quotations
omitted). "Rather, the party must show that its own
rights have been or will be directly affected."
Id. (quotation omitted).
trial court, Teeboom asserted that his personal rights were
directly affected by passage of the 2018 budget because, by
his calculations, his 2018 property taxes will be $290 more
than they would have been had the wastewater treatment fund
been included in the spending cap calculation. The City
contends that Teeboom's assertion is insufficient to
confer standing because his alleged injury "is shared
generally by all other taxpayers in the city, meaning it is
not a distinguishable, particularized injury." However,
there is no requirement that a party suffer a
"unique" injury to establish standing. Although,
under our standing doctrine as articulated in Duncan
and its progeny, a person's status as a taxpayer is not,
by itself, sufficient to establish standing, taxpayer status
in conjunction with an injury or impairment of rights can
confer standing. See Duncan, 166 N.H. at 645 (to
bring a declaratory judgment action, a party must establish
that some right of the party has been impaired or prejudiced
by application of a rule or statute). As the United States
Supreme Court has explained:
As a general matter, the interest of a federal taxpayer in
seeing that Treasury funds are spent in accordance with the
Constitution does not give rise to the kind of redressable
"personal injury" required for Article III
standing. Of course, a taxpayer has standing to challenge the
collection of a specific tax assessment as
unconstitutional; being forced to pay such a ...