For the prosecutor, John J. Crean and William J. Shepp.
For the defendant, David T. Wilentz, Attorney-General, and John F. Bruther, Assistant Attorney-General.
Before Justices Case, Donges and Heher.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
HEHER, J. Certiorari was granted to review the judgment of the defendant Board sustaining the action of the Commissioner of Local Government in refusing approval of the budget adopted by the City of Camden for the year 1940. 125 N.J.L. 73.
The revenue anticipated for the budget year included $60,000 from the sale of real estate theretofore "acquired" by the municipality "for unpaid taxes," and $50,000 for rents from such properties. The Commissioner deleted the first item, but increased the second to $80,000.
The propriety of the deletion is the sole question at issue. It is defended as the elimination of an improper "item of miscellaneous revenue," in that "a true anticipated revenue" of that class "under the Budget Act is an item which appears
for the first time in the budget of a given year, not as an account receivable arising from the transaction of a previous year, but which arises anew in each annual budget; such as interest and costs on delinquent taxes, franchise and gross receipts taxes, fines and penalties, fees and permits, &c." Thus, a distinction in this behalf is made between "an item which creates a new revenue each year and one which is a recovery of a revenue or an asset which occurred for the first time as such years before." The former is termed "new annual revenue" and the latter "the liquidation or collection of accounts receivable." It is said that the sales of "foreclosed properties" do not constitute "new revenues in that particular year, but are recoveries of assets of former years," and are therefore "not true anticipated miscellaneous revenues as defined in the budget act." R.S. 1937, 40:2-15, 40:2-17.
The question is one of statutory construction. R.S. 1937, 40:2-53, as amended by chapter 396 of the Laws of 1939 (Pamph. L., pp. 943, 946; N.J.S.A. 40:2-53), invests the Commissioner with jurisdiction to "determine upon the basis of information and data available whether: a. All estimates of revenue are reasonable, accurate, correctly stated and in accordance with the provisions of this chapter and the regulations of the board." Section 40:2-15 classifies "anticipated revenues" as "surplus revenue appropriated;" "miscellaneous revenues;" "receipts from delinquent taxes" (to the extent permitted by section 40:2-25, as amended by chapter 7 of the Laws of 1939 [ Pamph. L., p. 18; N.J.S.A. 40:2-25] of this title); "amount to be raised by taxes;" and "dedicated revenues." Section 40:2-16 defines "surplus revenue" to include "receipts from miscellaneous revenues during any fiscal year which are in excess of the aggregate amount of the classified miscellaneous revenues as stated in the budget of such year." Section 40:2-17, as supplemented by chapter 21 of Laws of 1939 (Pamph. L., p. 33; N.J.S.A. 40:2-17) defines "miscellaneous revenues" as "such amounts as may reasonably be expected to be realized in cash during the budget year from known and regular sources, or from sources reasonably capable of anticipation, and lawfully applicable to the appropriations made in the budget, other than dedicated
revenues, revenues from taxes to be levied to support the budget, receipts from delinquent taxes, and surplus revenue." And section 40:2-25, as amended, provides that, in the budget of a municipality on a "full cash basis" (it seems to be conceded that prosecutor is in this category), there shall be included among the "anticipated revenues, under the caption 'receipts from delinquent taxes,' a proportion of all taxes levied for prior fiscal years, including the lien value of tax titles to real estate standing in the name of the municipality, unpaid and owing to the * * * municipality * * * at the beginning of the budget year, not in excess of the proportion of all such taxes so unpaid and owing at the beginning of the next preceding fiscal year and not subsequently abated, canceled, or remitted, which ...