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City of Passaic v. Passaic County Board of Taxation

Decided: January 25, 1960.


On appeal from Decision and Determination of the Division of Tax Appeals, Department of Treasury.

For affirmance -- Chief Justice Weintraub, and Justices Burling, Francis, Proctor, Hall and Schettino. For reversal -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Weintraub, C.J.


The City of Passaic attacks the apportionment of the cost of county government among the municipalities for the year 1956. It urges the statute does not authorize the inclusion of the assessed value of personal property in the apportionment basis. It adds that if this view be rejected the statute is unconstitutional. The county board found against the city and the Division of Tax Appeals affirmed. On our motion we certified the city's further appeal to the Appellate Division before it was considered there.

The city complains that whereas the aggregates of real property as returned by the local assessors are equalized at full true value by the county board under R.S. 54:3-17 to 19, no such process is provided with respect to personal property. Thus the municipality which is more diligent than others in reaching taxable personalty or uses a higher percentage of true value is penalized in its share of the cost of county government. For this reason, it urges the aggregate assessments of personal property should be disregarded. However, it seems equally clear that upon the city's approach the advantage would run to the taxpayers of municipalities with the greater amount of personal property.

If the Legislature intended both real and personal property to be taxed for county purposes, it would be odd to disregard entirely the valuations of personalty and to require personalty to pay on the substantially unrelated basis of the valuation of real property in the municipality. The uniform practice has been to tax both classes of property for county purposes, and if the statute so requires, it is strong evidence against the city's position. That the statute

does subject personal as well as real property to county taxation is inescapable from a mere reading of chapter 4 of Title 54 (R.S. 54:4-1 et seq.). See also R.S. 54:3-13. Indeed the city does not suggest otherwise.

The provisions dealing with apportionment of the county tax quite plainly require personal property to be included in the basis of apportionment. The assessor files with the county board his list and a duplicate thereof containing the assessment of all taxable real and personal property. N.J.S.A. 54:4-12. The county board may make certain revisions, N.J.S.A. 54:4-47, and thereupon, it is provided in N.J.S.A. 54:4-48:

"The county board of taxation shall enter all changes or additions on the various tax lists and duplicates, and, upon ascertaining the total amount of tax to be raised, fix and adjust the amount of state school, state and county tax to be levied in each taxing district in the county in proportion to the respective values thereof [ i.e. the values of real and personal property on the lists], and the amount to be levied in each taxing district for local purposes as certified to it. * * *" (Emphasis added.)

N.J.S.A. 54:4-49, as it read for the tax year here in question, provided specifically that "in apportioning the amount of money to be raised in the various taxing districts for state, state school or county purposes," the county board, after "having revised, corrected and equalized the assessed value of all the property in the respective taxing districts," shall make certain deductions, and thereupon "the total valuations" as ascertained after such revisions of the assessment lists and deductions therefrom "shall form the basis for the apportionment of State, State school or county taxes." L. 1956, c. 93, § 2. (Emphasis added.) The provisions of N.J.S.A. 54:4-52 relating to the table of aggregates to be prepared by the county board follow and implement the same thesis.

Hence there is no doubt that the aggregates of personalty were required to be included in the apportionment valuation for the year 1956.

N.J.S.A. 54:4-49, the apportionment section, was amended subsequent to the county board's work for the year 1956. L. 1957, c. 8, § 1. Although the amendment is not involved in this case, we think it desirable to set at rest any question as to whether the amendment operated to exclude personal property from the apportionment valuation. The statement accompanying the bill which became Chapter 8 discloses no such purpose. Rather the stated object was to provide that overpayments and underpayments by a taxing district with respect to county costs and other common burdens shall be adjusted on the basis of the actual dollar amount rather than by adjustment of the aggregate ...

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