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Township of Landis v. Division of Tax Appeals of State Department of Taxation and Finance

Decided: May 13, 1948.

TOWNSHIP OF LANDIS, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, PROSECUTOR-APPELLANT,
v.
THE DIVISION OF TAX APPEALS OF THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF TAXATION AND FINANCE OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY AND THE BOROUGH OF VINELAND, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



On appeal from the Supreme Court, whose opinion is reported in 136 N.J.L. 310.

For the prosecutor-appellant, Solve Tuso and Milstead & McElroy.

For the defendants-respondents, Philip L. Lipman and William J. Shepp.

Schettino

The opinion of the court was delivered by

SCHETTINO, J. The Township of Landis levied an assessment of $350,000 for the year 1943 upon electrical distribution equipment owned by the Borough of Vineland and located within the township. The Cumberland County Board of Taxation canceled the assessment. This action was affirmed by the Division of Tax Appeals, 25 N.J. Mis. R. 73 (1946). On certiorari, the Supreme Court concluded that the judgment

was correct and dismissed the writ, 136 N.J.L. 310 (1947).

The assessed property was used by Vineland solely for the transmission and sale of electricity to residents of Landis. The property was assessed under the alleged authority of R.S. 54:4-3.3, which provides in part:

"The property of the United States, and, except as otherwise provided by article I of this chapter (Sec. 54:4-1, et seq.), the property of the State of New Jersey; and the property of the respective counties, school districts and taxing districts, when located therein and used for public purposes, or for the preservation or exhibit of historical data, records or property shall be exempt from taxation under this chapter, but this exemption shall not include real property bought in for debts or on foreclosure of mortgages given to secure loans out of public funds or out of money in court, which property shall be taxed unless devoted to public uses."

Landis contends that the property, used for the purpose described, is not "used for public purposes" within the meaning of this section and therefore not within the exemption.

The Division of Tax Appeals concluded that property owned by a taxing district is exempt whether or not used for public purposes. It reached that conclusion after considering the cases of Jersey City v. Blum (Court of Errors and Appeals, 1925), 101 N.J.L. 93; Township of Teaneck v. State Board of Tax Appeals (Supreme Court, 1933), 110 Id. 28; affirmed for reasons given below (Court of Errors and Appeals, 1933), 111 Id. 242; and Essex County Park Commission v. State Board of Tax Appeals (Supreme Court, 1943), 129 Id. 336.

The case of Jersey City v. Blum dealt with section 203 (2) of chapter 236, laws of 1918, one of the sources from which R.S. 54:4-3.3 was derived. The language of section 203 (2) is the same as the language of the quoted portion of R.S. 54:4-3.3 in so far as here pertinent. This court there held that property owned by municipal bodies may not constitutionally be classified for exemption on the basis of location. In Township of Teaneck v. State Board of Tax Appeals the ...


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