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Rek Investment Co. v. City of Newark

Decided: October 17, 1963.

REK INVESTMENT COMPANY, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
THE CITY OF NEWARK, RESPONDENT



Gaulkin, Lewis and Labrecque. The opinion of the court was delivered by Labrecque, J.s.c. (temporarily assigned).

Labrecque

Rek Investment Company appeals from a judgment of the Division of Tax Appeals fixing the assessment on its real property at 756-62 Broad Street, Newark, for the year 1961.

For the year in question Rek had appealed to the Essex County Board of Taxation from an assessment of land, $268,900; improvements, $45,700; total: $314,600. The county board reduced the assessment to land, $215,500; improvements, $17,500; total: $232,500. Rek thereupon sought a further reduction by appealing to the Division of Tax Appeals. No cross-appeal was filed by the city, although it was the appellant in a companion appeal involving the 1960 assessment on the same parcel, made when it was owned by Rek's grantor. The appeals were tried together and the Division determined that the true value of the property for each year was $525,900. Based upon an agreed common level of 50%, judgment was entered increasing the assessment for 1961 to land, $248,000; improvements, $15,000; total: $263,000. The present appeal was then filed. An appeal to this court involving the 1960 assessment was also filed but was subsequently withdrawn.

Briefly stated, Rek contends that the Division was without jurisdiction to increase the assessment and that it was bound by the price at which the property had been sold to it just prior to the beginning of the tax year. Additionally, it asserts that a key factual finding was not supported by the evidence.

Rek first urges that upon an appeal to the Division of Tax Appeals by a taxpayer who has been successful before the county board but seeks a further reduction in its assessment, the Division is without jurisdiction to increase the assessment in the absence of a cross-appeal seeking such relief. Since there was no such cross-appeal here, it argues that the Division was limited to granting a further reduction or affirming the county board.

With this conclusion we are unable to agree. It is true that the Division of Tax Appeals is a statutory tribunal

and may proceed only in the manner permitted by law. City of Passaic v. Gera Mills , 55 N.J. Super. 73, 94 (App. Div. 1959), certification denied 30 N.J. 153 (1959). But it is likewise clear that the Division is the body charged with the obligation to hear and determine appeals from county boards of taxation. N.J.S.A. 54:2-33. To accomplish this task, it is vested with power to determine the true value of real property and to fix the assessment thereof, based upon true value or the common level of assessments to true value in the municipality. N.J.S.A. 54:4-2.25; Gibraltar Corrugated Paper Co. v. North Bergen Tp. , 20 N.J. 213 (1955); Jat Company, Inc. v. Division of Tax Appeals , 47 N.J. Super. 571, 581 (App. Div. 1957).

We presume that the appeal before us was filed under N.J.S.A. 54:2-39, which applies to appeals by one who was an appellant before the county board. It reads, in part, as follows:

"Any appellant who is dissatisfied with the judgment of the county board of taxation upon his appeal may appeal from that judgment to the Division of Tax Appeals in the Department of the Treasury by filing a petition of appeal to the division, in manner and form to be by said division prescribed, on or before December 15 following the date fixed for final decisions by the county boards, and the division shall proceed summarily to hear and determine all such appeals and render its judgment thereon as soon as may be."

However, it may have been filed pursuant to N.J.S.A. 54:2-35, which permits appeals from county board determinations by parties affected. It provides as follows:

"Any action or determination of a county board of taxation may be appealed for review to the Division of Tax Appeals in the State Department of Taxation and Finance, under such rules and regulations as it may from time to time prescribe, and it may review such action and proceedings and give such judgment therein as it may think proper." (Emphasis added)

Both of the quoted statutes are of long standing. The predecessor of the Division of Tax Appeals interpreted its powers ...


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