For the prosecutor, Wall, Haight, Carey & Hartpence (John A. Hartpence, of counsel).
For the defendant City of Jersey City, Charles A. Rooney (Frank P. McCarthy, of counsel; John F. Lynch, Jr., on the brief).
Before Justices Bodine, Perskie and Porter.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
PORTER, J. The City of Jersey City assessed taxes on property of the prosecutor for the years 1935, 1936, 1937 and 1938. Appeals to the County Board resulted in reduction and appeals to the State Board resulted in increases. The prosecutor obtained these writs of certiorari (to be considered together by consent) to review these determinations.
The property in question is a large warehouse. It's erection was commenced in 1929. It is on lands owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. The operating company failed and the building was sold at a bankruptcy sale to the prosecutor for $2,100,000. The stock of the prosecutor is owned by a subsidiary company of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. This building was substantially completed in 1931, about $240,000 being spent in completing and improving it from 1931 to 1934. The agreement between the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and the original operating company provided for the kind of building to be erected, and the cost which was to approximate $6,756,000 and for a bond issue to be delivered to the Pennsylvania Railroad Company for $7,000,000.
The tax assessment for 1931 was on the basis of construction cost. For the years 1932, 1933 it was $5,137,000 reduced by the County and State Boards to $3,000,000, 1934 the assessment was $3,000,000. The assessments for 1935, 1936, 1937 and 1938 were $5,137,000 reduced by the County Board to $3,000,000, however increased by the State Board to $5,000,000.
The testimony of three witnesses on behalf of the prosecutor is that the value is $3,000,000 and $3,160,000 while that of the two witnesses for the defendants ranged from about $6,000,000 to $7,000,000. The witnesses for the prosecutor based their estimates on general conditions of the warehouse business while those for the defendants figured the value on the cubic contents and by replacement value making allowances for depreciation and obsolescence. The prosecutor carried the building on its books for the periods in question at figures in excess of $7,000,000. The value of the land is not involved.
We conclude that a factual question was presented and that there were proofs which justify the findings of the State Board. There is a presumption in favor of the correctness of the assessments and the burden of proving that they were excessive is on the owner. Colonial Life Insurance Co. v. State Board of Tax Appeals, 126 N.J.L. 126.
The prosecutor contends that under N.J.S.A. 54:4-23 the criterion of true value is determined by the selling price. In Universal Insurance Co. v. State Board of Tax Appeals, 118 N.J.L. 538, the correct rule was reiterated by Mr. Justice Perskie (at p. 540), as follows:
"The basic weakness of this attack is that prosecutors proceed on the theory that exchange value or market value is the invariable test of true value under all circumstances. This is not so. In the words of our Court of Errors and Appeals in Newark v. Tunis, 82 N.J.L. 461 (opinion by Parker, J.), * * * 'true value is not always to be ascertained by reference to selling price; * * * ...