On appeal from Superior Court, Law Division, Monmouth County, whose opinion is reported at 154 N.J. Super. 75, and the Superior Court, Law Division, Mercer and Bergen Counties.
Matthews, Crane and Antell.
[161 NJSuper Page 588] These consolidated appeals deal with the interpretation and constitutionality of the Tenants' Property
Tax Rebate Act, N.J.S.A. 54:4-6.2 et seq. The Cold Indian Springs, Halston Builders Associates, Inganamort Bros. and Luppino cases involve essentially identical issues relating to the interpretation of the term "property tax reduction" in the context or reductions in the 1976 tax assessments due to tax appeal judgments and reductions in 1977 tax assessments partly attributable to the implementation of municipal-wide revaluations. These appeals also attack the constitutionality of the act on due process and equal protection grounds. The fifth appeal, Culp v. Township of Matawan , concerns whether the unbudgeted school aid received by plaintiff in 1977 related to 1976 taxes rather than 1977 taxes for purposes of determining the property tax reduction under the act. The Director of the Division of Local Government Services (Director) is a party-defendant in the Culp case and intervened in the Cold Indian Springs and Halston Builders cases. These three cases have been consolidated with the Inganamort Bros. and Luppino cases.
The Cold Indian Springs case was instituted by plaintiffs, owners of apartment complexes in Ocean Township, Monmouth County, as an action in lieu of prerogative writs against the Township of Ocean and its tax collector. Frank Linzmayer and Eileen Youmans, tenants in the apartment buildings involved in this action, intervened as defendants on behalf of themselves and other tenants. The trial judge's opinion is reported at 154 N.J. Super. 75.
The Halston Builders case was instituted by various owners of garden apartment complexes located in Hamilton Township, Mercer County, who filed a complaint in lieu of prerogative writs against the Hamilton Township tax collector. The trial judge, in an oral opinion, held that
1. The term "property tax reduction" in the act requires landlords to rebate to tenants 65% of all tax reductions attributable to a municipal-wide revaluation of assessments in the 1977 tax year.
2. The term "property tax reduction" does not require landlords to rebate to tenants any portion of reductions due to tax appeal judgments for the 1976 tax year.
3. The term "property tax reduction," as interpreted under paragraphs 1 and 2 above, violates plaintiffs' rights under the equal protection clause.
4. The amount of the property tax reduction to be rebated by plaintiffs to their tenants should be recomputed to exclude reductions due to the revaluation.
The Inganamort and Luppino matters were instituted separately by owners of multiple-story apartment buildings in Fort Lee, Bergen County, who filed complaints in lieu of prerogative writs challenging the computations of the property tax reductions calculated by the Fort Lee tax collector, which computations included tax reductions attributable to a municipal-wide revaluation. These matters were heard together and, in an opinion dated January 24, 1978, the trial judge adopted the decision of Judge Schoch in the Halston Builders case.
The essential facts in the Cold Indian Springs, Halston Builders, Inganamort and Luppino cases are not in dispute. Ocean and Hamilton Townships and the Borough of Fort Lee implemented municipal-wide revaluations for the 1977 tax year. The tax collectors for the municipalities submitted to each plaintiff a certification as to the property tax reduction to be rebated to the tenants under the statute. Such certifications reflected rebates calculated pursuant to the instructions of the Director, which required the inclusion of the tax reductions for the 1977 tax year attributable to a revaluation to be included in the tenants' rebate. No specific proof was presented, however, as to a ...