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Piscataway Assoc. Inc. v. Township of Piscataway

Decided: February 20, 1976.

PISCATAWAY ASSOC., INC., BLOCK 229, LOT 3-A, KAPLEN, GEIGER, CHANDLER ASSOC., INC., BLOCK 229, LOT 3-B, CHANDLER AND PISCATAWAY ASSOC., INC., BLOCK 229-A, LOT 1, CHANDLER ASSOC., W. KAPLAN, R. GEIGER, BLOCK 229-A, LOT 7, CHANDLER ASSOC. AND PISCATAWAY ASSOC., INC., BLOCK 229-A, LOT 8, PETITIONERS-RESPONDENTS,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF PISCATAWAY, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT



Lynch, Larner and Horn. The opinion of the court was delivered by Lynch, P.J.A.D.

Lynch

The Township of Piscataway appeals from judgments of the Division of Tax Appeals which reduced the tax assessments for the years 1971, 1972 and 1973 on five parcels of realty owned by Piscataway Associates, W. Kaplan, R. Geiger and Chandler Associates (hereinafter collectively known as "taxpayer"). The assessments and the judgments of the Division were as follows:

1971 1972 1973

Assessments $4,807,900 $5,010,400 $15,031,200

Judgments ap-

pealed from 4,572,835 4,572,835 10,558,022

The Division's judgment was on two grounds: (1) the taxpayer had established its claim of "discrimination" (see In re Appeals of Kents, 2124 Atlantic Ave. , 34 N.J. 21 (1961); Continental Paper Co. v. Ridgefield Park , 122 N.J. Super. 446, 450-451 (App. Div.), certif. den. 63 N.J. 328 (1973)), and therefore application of the average ratio of the Director of Taxation was justified; (2) reduction in the true value of the property was appropriate.

The "discrimination" issue

On appeal there is no dispute concerning that part of the opinion of the Division which fixes the percentage of true value at which the properties were assessed for the tax years 1971 and 1972 at 35% because although that figure represents an approximation of the Director's average ratios for 1971 and 1972, it is substantially identical to the common level of assessment the township asserts was applied in those years (see p. 280, infra). The township does, however, challenge the Division's decision as to 1973. For that year the Division computed respondent's assessment by applying the Director of Taxation's 1973 average ratio (80.81%) to the

true value of the property.*fn1 The Township contends that the correct assessment for that year is 100% of true value.

The sole finding in the decision of the Division on the issue of discrimination was expressed as follows: "A review of the testimony reveals that the charge of discrimination was convincing." That falls far short of the requisite adequate findings of fact. Van Realty, Inc. v. Passaic , 117 N.J. Super. 425 (App. Div. 1971); Benjamin Moore & Co. v. Newark , 133 N.J. Super. 427 (App. Div. 1975). However, since the question is solely one of law on the record before us, we decide the discrimination issue without remand. Cf. Humble Oil & Refining Co. v. Englewood Cliffs , 135 N.J. Super. 26 (App. Div. 1975).

John Redmond, a member of the township's board of assessors, testified there had been a complete revaluation in the municipality for the tax year 1965. He further stated that for the tax years 1971 and 1972 the assessors attempted to assess property at 35.5% and 33% of true value, respectively, in keeping with the Director's ratio for those years. For the tax year 1973, in order to assess at 100% of true value as directed by the Middlesex County Tax Board, Redmond testified that the 1972 assessments were multiplied by 3. This was done uniformly throughout the municipality, except for pipelines and "qualified farm property."

Though the decision of the Division did not express its findings or reasoning, presumably it concluded that the wide range of individual ratios of assessments of property to their sales prices reflected in the Director's 1973 sale study (individual ratios varied from 28% to 180%) demonstrated, as taxpayer argues here, that there was no "common level" in Piscataway, thus permitting application of the Director's

ratio. A similar claim was directly rejected in the recent case of Tri-Terminal Corp. v. Edgewater , 68 N.J. 405 (1975), where the court stated (at 413) that the "outer ratio range of individual sales does not necessarily reflect degree of departure from general uniformity of assessments of properties." The court held that demonstrating a wide range in the Director's data for Edgewater did not constitute a showing that there was no common level in that community. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed the ...


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