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Township of Little Falls v. Passaic County Board of Taxation

Decided: June 15, 1971.

TOWNSHIP OF LITTLE FALLS, BOROUGH OF POMPTON LAKES, BOROUGH OF RINGWOOD, BOROUGH OF TOTOWA, BOROUGH OF WANAQUE, TOWNSHIP OF WAYNE, TOWNSHIP OF WEST MILFORD, AND BOROUGH OF WEST PATERSON, ALL MUNICIPAL CORPORATIONS OF NEW JERSEY, PETITIONERS-APPELLANTS,
v.
PASSAIC COUNTY BOARD OF TAXATION, RESPONDENT-RESPONDENT, AND CITY OF CLIFTON, CROSS-PETITIONER-RESPONDENT, AND DIVISION OF TAX APPEALS, RESPONDENT



Goldmann, Leonard and Fritz. The opinion of the court was delivered by Goldmann, P.J.A.D.

Goldmann

Petitioner municipalities appeal from a determination and judgment of the State Division of Tax Appeals which affirmed the Passaic County equalization table for 1970 and dismissed their appeal from that table.

Respondent county board of taxation had on January 27, 1970 promulgated the 1970 preliminary equalization table wherein the aggregate true value for each revalued taxing district was determined by applying the so-called "page 8 formula." There were ten such revalued taxing districts, and by using the formula the real property ratio of aggregate assessed value to aggregate true value was in excess of 100% for each petitioner.

The county board promulgated the 1970 revised final equalization table on March 13, 1970. The board did not use the page 8 formula for revalued taxing districts in that table, but assigned a ratio of 100% to each of them. With respect to districts that had not revalued, the county board used the state school aid table promulgated by the Director of the Division of Taxation pursuant to N.J.S.A. 54:1-35.1, in order to arrive at their respective ratios and true values. The result of not using the page 8 formula in the final table was to raise the aggregate true value of each petitioner from that shown in the preliminary table.

On April 9, 1970 petitioners appealed the revised final equalization table to the Division of Tax Appeals. The City of Clifton filed an answer and cross-petition on April 27, 1970. Meanwhile, on April 20 the county board of taxation held a meeting, on notice to all municipalities, and ratified and confirmed the final table.

The Division held a hearing June 4 and 12, 1970 on petitioners' appeal and Clifton's cross-appeal. Judge Convery sat for the entire Division and eventually filed his report recommending that judgment be entered affirming the final equalization table for 1970. That report was approved by the Division and judgment entered affirming the

table. We are in agreement with the Division's determination, based on the reasons set out in Judge Convery's findings and conclusions.

Eight of the ten municipalities that appealed to the Division prosecute the present appeal. They launch a two-pronged attack, claiming that (1) the county board erred in raising their valuations in the final table because it failed to give petitioners the required three days' notice, as provided in N.J.S.A. 54:3-18, and (2) the county board did not treat each taxing district in the county uniformly, but discriminated against the revalued districts by assigning them a ratio of 100% while at the same time assigning to nonrevalued districts a ratio based on the Director of Taxation's sales ratio study. This is characterized as arbitrary and capricious action, producing an unjust and inequitable apportionment of the inter-municipal cost of county government among the Passaic County taxing districts.

The county board frankly admits that it should have given the required three days' notice of the proposed adoption on March 13, 1970 of the revised final equalization table, but failed to do so because the experienced employee entrusted with that duty was critically ill.

Petitioners claim that the April 20, 1970 meeting to ratify and confirm the final table did not and could not remedy the situation. The county board, they say, was without jurisdiction to act, because at that moment the matter was on appeal to the Division.

What was done here was unusual, but neither illegal nor invalid. Having inadvertently failed to give the municipalities notice of the March 13 meeting, the county board was not prevented from correcting its error merely because petitioners had appealed to the Division. Compare Handlon v. Belleville , 4 N.J. 99, 106 (1950); Paterson v. Division of Tax Appeals , 40 N.J. Super. 543, 546 (App. Div. 1956), and cases cited. ...


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