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Pingry Corp. v. Township of Hillside

Decided: March 7, 1966.

THE PINGRY CORPORATION, COMPLAINANT-APPELLANT,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF HILLSIDE, RESPONDENT-RESPONDENT, AND DIVISION OF TAX APPEALS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, RESPONDENT. THE TOWNSHIP OF HILLSIDE, COMPLAINANT-RESPONDENT, V. THE PINGRY CORPORATION, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT, AND DIVISION OF TAX APPEALS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, RESPONDENT



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

Schettino

[46 NJ Page 459] The Pingry Corporation, a non-profit educational institution incorporated pursuant to N.J.S.A. 15:1-12 et seq., appeals from a decision of the Appellate Division (86 N.J. Super. 437 (1965)) affirming in part and reversing in part certain tax assessments made by the Township of Hillside upon buildings and lands used by Pingry in

its operation of a day school for boys, grades 4 to 12. We granted certification on Pingry's petition. 45 N.J. 33 (1965).

The Pingry School has been in existence for over 100 years. In 1953 the Board of Trustees of the school authorized a move of the school from Elizabeth to Hillside. In 1962, Hillside presented Pingry with tax bills, assessing all of the school's property for taxation. Pingry appealed the assessments to the Union County Board of Taxation, which set aside the assessments upon the school building, certain personal property and seven faculty houses but retained the assessments upon other lots including those upon which the faculty houses were located.

Hillside appealed to the State Division of Tax Appeals and Pingry cross-appealed. The Division affirmed the County's cancellation of assessments upon the school building, equipment shed, recreation facilities, personal property and the residence of the janitor. It also affirmed the assessment of the lots upon which the faculty houses are situated but reversed the cancellation of the assessments on the houses themselves, and reinstated them.

Pingry initiated separate appeals upon the judgments entered by the Division respecting the assessments upon the faculty houses and the land upon which they are built. These appeals were consolidated in the Appellate Division which affirmed the judgments of the Division of Tax Appeals. On the appeal before us, Pingry questions the validity of the assessments placed upon the seven faculty houses and the lots upon which they are situated. These residences are located at the westerly end of the school campus in an enclave. The total acreage of the campus comprises 31.75 acres with the faculty house area (Master's Square) encompassing 2.82 acres.

As stated in the recent case of State v. Vaughn, 44 N.J. 142, 145 (1965), this State holds the education of children to be of supreme importance. The New Jersey Constitution (1947) Art. VIII, sec. IV, par. 1 provides:

"The Legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of free public schools for the instruction of all the children in the State between the ages of five and eighteen years."

Thus it is clear that the State's duty to educate children is a matter of constitutional demand. In Title 18, N.J.S.A. 18:14-1 et seq., the Legislature has implemented this demand by providing for the public education of every child within the State. By N.J.S.A. 18:14-14, the parent, guardian or other person having custody of every child is required to see to it that every child between the ages of 7 and 16 attends "the public schools of the district or a day school in which there is given instruction equivalent to that provided in the public schools for children of similar grades and attainments * * *."

Pingry claims exemptions for the faculty houses under N.J.S.A. 54:4-3.6 which, prior to amendment L. 1964, c. 42, sec. 1, provided in pertinent part:

"The following property shall be exempt from taxation under this chapter: All buildings actually used for colleges, schools, academies or seminaries; * * * the land whereon any of the buildings hereinbefore mentioned are erected, and which may be necessary for the fair use and enjoyment thereof, and which is devoted to the purposes above mentioned and to no other purpose and does not exceed 5 acres in extent; * * * provided * * * the buildings, or the land on which they stand, or the associations, corporations or institutions using and occupying them as aforesaid, are not conducted for profit * * *. (L. 1941, c. 243, p. 66, sec. 1)."

As a non-profit educational corporation, Pingry contends that the faculty residences and the land upon which they are built are "buildings actually used for * * * schools." To this contention Hillside argues that the statute should not be read as allowing such exemption. Hillside contends that the fundamental approach of real property taxation is that all property must bear its just and equitable share of the burden of taxation and that a tax exemption, being a departure from ...


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