Jacobs, Donges and Bigelow. The opinion of the court was delivered by Bigelow, J.A.D.
[5 NJSuper Page 378] The City of Jersey City appeals from the action of the Division of Tax Appeals in dismissing the City's petitions of appeal from the Hudson County Board of Taxation. Although the cases involve in the aggregate several million dollars, the contentions of the parties respecting the true value of the properties assessed have not been heard by any administrative tribunal, since the County Board, like the Tax Division, decided that it was without jurisdiction. The appeals relate to real estate taxes for the years 1943, 1944 and 1945. About April 1, 1943, the County Board, acting under the authority given it by R.S. 54:4-47 to "revise, correct and equalize the assessed value of all property," reduced the assessments that had been made by the Tax Assessor of Jersey City on 34,431 parcels of land, by the total sum of $95,816,335. The County Board, on its own initiative, had made a study of land values in Jersey City and had reached a front foot value for every block in the city and substituted this value for the value reached by the assessor, and so reduced the assessment on 80% of the parcels of land in the city. Asserting that the assessments made by its Tax Assessor were correct and that the revised assessments were too low, the city filed with the County Board as an appellate tribunal, its petitions of appeals, one for each of the 34,341 reductions, alleging that it felt "discriminated against for the reason that said assessment is below the true value of said property." On November 15, 1943, the County Board made an order dismissing all of the petitions of appeal on the ground that they were filed "without authority in law" and were "insufficient to confer jurisdiction upon this Board."
22 N.J. Misc. 16. The city immediately appealed to the State Board of Tax Appeals.
The next year, 1944, the County Board, as a revisory body, made 34,574 reductions in the land assessments and the city, accepting the reductions in 10,000 cases, took 24,514 appeals to the County Board. Again the County Board dismissed the appeals for lack of jurisdiction, and the city appealed to the Division of Tax Appeals, successor to the State Board of Taxation. On January 16, 1945, counsel for sundry taxpayers moved to dismiss the appeals taken in 1943 and 1944. The Division first denied the motion, then reconsidered, and on September 4, 1945, dismissed the appeals for lack of jurisdiction. 23 N.J. Misc. 311. Meanwhile, 1945 assessments had been made by the city assessor and had been reduced by the County Board. The city took but 12,000 appeals to the County Board from the reduced assessments for 1945 and when these appeals were dismissed by the County Board, it appealed to the Division of Tax Appeals in only 876 cases. The Division, on September 3, 1946, dismissed these appeals. 24 N.J. Misc. 315. The City Commission now decided to abandon in large part its contest against the assessment reductions for 1943 and 1944, and continued the litigation with respect only to the 876 parcels that were the subjects of the 1945 appeals. The former Supreme Court, for reasons stated by Justice Colie, allowed writs of certiorari to review the action of the Division of Tax Appeals relating to the 876 properties for each of the three tax years, and thus the matter is now before us. Jersey City v. Division of Tax Appeals , 134 N.J.L. 454 (1946).
The city asserts that it had a right to appeal to the County Board and that the County Board had jurisdiction of the appeals under either R.S. 54:3-11 or 3-21. Section 11 is taken from sections 5 and 9, Chapter 120, of the Laws of 1906, the statute that created county boards of taxation. Section 9, like the present section 11, gives these boards all the powers formerly exercised by certain predecessor authorities, including Commissioners of Appeal. The General Tax Act of 1903, to which the 1906 Act was a supplement, provided
that on complaint that "property specified has been assessed at too low a rate or omitted in the assessment," the Commissioners of Appeal, after notice and hearing, may correct the assessment. P.L. 1903, c. 208, § 28, p. 412. Section 28 remained effective at least until the adoption of the 1918 Tax Revision, P.L. 1918, c. 236. Until then, the County Boards, having the authority given by section 28 to the Commissioners of Appeal, could hear appeals from assessments alleged to be too low. But in N.Y. State Realty & Terminal Co. v. Hudson County Board of Taxation , 102 N.J.L. 314 (E. & A. 1926), it was held that section 701 of the 1918 statute had superseded section 28 of the 1903 law in so far as the latter gave an appeal to a taxing district from assessments complained of as too low, and hence that the county boards could not entertain such an appeal under section 28, despite the inclusive language of section 9 of the 1906 statute.
We now come to the general statutory revision of 1937. Section 28 as revised may be found in R.S. 54:3-20, but the revisors, accepting the decision of our highest court, which we have cited, left out the words "assessed at too low a rate," so that the revised section, 54:3-20, authorizes action only when the petition shows "that property specified has been omitted in the assessment." Since the Revised Statutes were adopted "as all the public statute law of the State of New Jersey of a general nature," P.L. 1937, c. 188, therefore section 28 of the 1903 Act has been effectively repealed except to the extent that it has been re-enacted in section 20. Brower v. Franklin Tp. , 119 N.J.L. 417 (Sup. Ct. 1938); Duke Power Co. v. Somerset County Board of Taxation , 125 N.J.L. 431 (E. & A. 1940). It is true that section 11 of Chapter 3, Title 54, of the Revision, purports to give to the county boards all the powers formerly exercised by Commissioners of Appeal; but the repeal or failure to re-enact as part of the Revision so much of section 28 of the old statute as gave Commissioners of Appeal the power in question, so operated that section 11 does not confer that power on the county boards.
We find, however, that the jurisdiction to hear the appeals in question was conferred upon the county boards by R.S. 54:3-21. This allows "a taxing district which may feel discriminated against by the assessed valuation of property in the taxing district" to appeal to the county board. It was doubtless because the revisors considered that this grant of power included in its scope the jurisdiction given by section 28 of the Laws of 1903 over complaints by a taxing district that assessments were too low, that they omitted a like grant of jurisdiction from section 20 of the Revision. Section 21 is taken from section 701 of the Tax Act of 1918, the same section that was considered in N.Y. State Realty & Terminal Co. v. Hudson County Board of Taxation, supra. That decision turned upon the question whether section 701 governed an appeal by the taxing district based on a complaint that property was assessed too low. The Court of Errors and Appeals held that the section did govern, and that it gave jurisdiction to the County Board.
The respondents have built the major part of their argument in frank disregard of this precedent. They urge upon us that we too should disregard it inasmuch as "the correct interpretation of the law" was not called to the attention of the Court of Errors and Appeals, and so that tribunal fell into error. We cannot agree. But assuming that our highest court did err and that section 701, properly construed, did not confer the questioned jurisdiction, then section 701 did not supersede in part section 28 of the Laws of 1903 and the revisors, when drafting section 20 of Chapter 3, Title 54, ought not have omitted the words "assessed at too low a rate." The Legislature, in approving that section as a part of the Revision of 1937, accepted the New York State Realty case as sound law and we likewise accept it. From this it follows that the County Board had jurisdiction of the appeals of the City of Jersey City and should not have dismissed them unless some factors peculiar to this litigation justified the dismissal. We may add that the municipality's right of appeal was impliedly recognized in the adoption of P.L. 1942,
c. 79, and is again restated in Hackensack Water Co. v. Division of Tax ...