Halpern, Crahay and Ackerman.
Locustwood Cemetery Association (Locustwood) appeals from a final judgment of the State Division of Tax Appeals which essentially denied to Locustwood a real property tax exemption from an assessment of $283,200 for the year 1972 under N.J.S.A. 8A:5-10, which provides in pertinent part that
Cemetery companies shall be exempt from the payment of any real estate taxes on land dedicated for cemetery purposes * * *.
The record before us is brief, consisting of a factual stipulation between the parties and the testimony of the chairman of the board of trustees of Locustwood. It reflects that Locustwood's original certificate of incorporation was filed in the year 1907 under the name of Fernwood Cemetery Association.
The name was changed to Locustwood Cemetery Association in 1923. Until 1972 Locustwood's lands were never taxed and they had since 1907 been used exclusively in the interment of dead bodies. Over the many years interments had been conducted regularly and uninterruptedly, and as of 1972 approximately 10,000 bodies had been received. The land area comprised approximately 67 acres.
It was further agreed that Locustwood had conformed with the mandatory provisions of the New Jersey Cemetery Acts, both past and present. R.S. 8:2-1 et seq. and N.J.S.A. 8A:1-1 et seq. The specific conformances by Locustwood with statutory requirements set out in the stipulation need not be recited, our attention not being invited to any violations.
Without specificity the stipulation observed that "In one or more years there has been an excess of receipts over disbursements" and then posed this "Query For Determination" (we view the "Query" as essentially a forecast of the sole issue addressed to us):
Where, in the light of the foregoing stipulations, in one or more years there has been an excess of receipts over disbursements, whether this fact takes away the cemetery exemption as provided in N.J.S.A. 8A:5-10?
The Division of Tax Appeals felt that it did. On this record we are satisfied that it did not and reverse.
The Division judge held that "in all respects the taxpayer [Locustwood] qualified [for the exemption] with the exception of profit," noting that there were "substantial profits to the Association in the years 1967, 1968 and 1969." Received into evidence was a statement of receipts and disbursements from operations by Locustwood covering the years 1963 through 1972. It reflected that in some of those years there were losses and that in others receipts were greater than expenditures. By computation, the average of receipts in excess of disbursements in the stated years was $919.
While the record is not clear, it appeared that in the years 1967, 1968 and 1969 Locustwood enjoyed certain capital gains which were attributed by its chairman as having been generated by the sale of some cemetery property to an adjacent hospital. It was stated, without documentation but also without refutation, to have been an ...