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Borough of Sayreville v. Middlesex County Board of Taxation

Decided: February 4, 1975.

BOROUGH OF SAYREVILLE, IN THE COUNTY OF MIDDLESEX, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
THE MIDDLESEX COUNTY BOARD OF TAXATION, RESPONDENT-RESPONDENT



Lora, Handler and Tarleton. The opinion of the court was delivered by Handler, J.A.D.

Handler

This proceeding was commenced by the Borough of Sayreville filing a petition with the Division of Tax Appeals pursuant to N.J.S.A. 54:2-37, seeking review of the 1973 equalization table promulgated by the Middlesex County Board of Taxation. The petition challenging the 1973 Middlesex County equalization table was heard in the Division of Tax Appeals which determined that the table should not be revised, and judgment was entered by the Division affirming the table. Sayreville then appealed that judgment to the Appellate Division.

In 1973 the Middlesex County Board of Taxation elected to change the level of assessment of all real estate in Middlesex

County from 50% to 100%. The county board issued a directive to all assessors in the county advising that for the tax year 1973 each assessment was to be increased to full value as of October 1, 1972. The directive stressed that it would not be sufficient for the assessors "to merely double the 1972 assessments."

In determining ratios of aggregate assessed to aggregate true value for the 1973 county equalization table, the Middlesex County Board of Taxation applied the following system to all Middlesex County taxing districts: the county board used the same basic sales data found in the 1972 Table of Equalized Valuations, promulgated by the Director of the Division of Taxation pursuant to N.J.S.A. 54:1-35.1 et seq. for the purposes of the distribution of state school aid. This was essentially the same list of "usable" sales relied upon by the Director.*fn1 The period of sales covered by the county board was from July 1, 1971 to June 30, 1972. The county board compared these sales to the 1973 assessments and arrived at individual ratios of assessed value to sales price for each usable sale. Thereupon, the individual ratios were totalled and divided by the number of sales, resulting in a "district ratio" for each taxing district.

Sayreville seeks to have the county equalization table revised by using ratios resulting from the use of the "Page 8 formula," described in detail in Willingboro v. Burlington Cty. Bd. of Taxation, 62 N.J. 203 (1973). It contends that the use of the Page 8 formula is mandated by the Willingboro

decision and that by its use its county tax burden would be reduced by $100,000. It claims that in devising an equalization table the sales price should be compared to the assessment which was on the books at the time the sale took place (the method used by the Director), rather than to an assessment made subsequent to the sale (as done by the county board).

It was early stated in Passaic v. Passaic Cty. Bd. of Taxation, 18 N.J. 371, 385 (1955), that there is no specific statutory

This standard has been often reiterated. E.g., Kearny v. Div. of Tax Appeals, 35 N.J. 299 (1961); Woodbridge v. Middlesex Cty. Bd. of Taxation, 96 N.J. Super. 532 (App. Div. 1967).

The Willingboro case, relied upon by Sayreville, involved the question of how a county board of taxation should accomplish equalization when some, but not all, of the taxing districts within the county had undergone a revaluation or reassessment. The Supreme Court held, in essence, that a county board must uniformly apply "substantially similar data and a common standard" to all taxing districts in the county. 62 N.J. at 219. County boards should not make separate decisions or accord different treatment concerning non-revalued and revalued districts "independent of each other," since "the interrelated effect of each of these decisions" affects the proportionate county tax burden of all the districts. Id. at 221. Significantly, and in contrast to the situation in the present case, in the ...


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