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City of Port Republic v. Brusco

October 30, 1996

CITY OF PORT REPUBLIC, PLAINTIFF,
v.
VLRGILIO BRUSCO, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rimm

This is a local property tax matter involving N.J.S.A. 54:51A-7, the correction of errors statute. The municipality filed a complaint in the Tax Court on August 14, 1996 seeking a judgment reducing an assessment for the tax year 1996.

The subject property is designated as block 11, lot 5 on the tax map of the City of Port Republic and is also known as 510 Chestnut Neck Road. For the tax year 1996, the property was assessed as follows:

Land: $740,000

Improvements: 0

Total: $740,000.

In its complaint, the municipality alleges that the assessment was placed in the records of the municipality as a result of a typographical error, an error in transposition or a mistake in the tax assessment, not relating to matters of valuation involving the assessor's opinion or judgment. The municipality seeks a judgment correcting the assessment in accordance with N.J.S.A. 54:51A-7 so that the assessment for 1996 will be as follows:

Land: $74,000

Improvements: 0

Total: $74,000.

Attached to the complaint is the affidavit of Brian Vigue, the tax assessor of the City of Port Republic. Attached to the affidavit is a photocopy of a printout of one page of line items entitled "Port Republic City Revaluation Listing." Port Republic City is listed by the Director, Division of Taxation, in an attachment to the State of New Jersey, Department of the Treasury, Division of Taxation, Certification of Average Ratios and Common Level Ranges for Use in the Tax Year 1996, as a municipality having a reassessment as of October 1, 1995 for the 1996 tax year.

The printout is dated October 26, 1995 and contains on it, for each line item listed, the lot and block numbers; the owner's identification; the property location; the land, improvements and total assessment for 1995; a "new" land assessment; a "new" improvements assessment; and a "new" total assessment.

The 1995 assessments are printed, but the new land, new improvements and new total assessments are handwritten in the assessor's handwriting. For the subject property, the printout indicates that the land assessment for 1995 was $101,400 and the total assessment was $101,400. Under the new land column the assessor wrote "$74,000." Under the new improvements column, the assessor put a dash. Under the new total column, the assessor wrote "$74,000."

The assessor then sent the revaluation listing by mail to Vital Computer Resource, 900 South Broad Street, Trenton, New Jersey 08611, on or about December 15, 1995. Vital Computer Resource prints the tax list and is the state vendor for the MOD IV (Tax List) processing that the City of Port Republic uses. Vital Computer Resource processed the list on December 19, 1995, as indicated by a stamp on the revaluation listing with the word "Entered", together with a handwritten date of "12/19" and handwritten initials of "JR". According to the affidavit of the assessor, the operator working for Vital Computer Resource, "JR", entered the values into the system adding an extra zero to the land value increasing it to $740,000, and hence increasing the total value to $740,000. The assessor states in his affidavit that he did not notice the error until July 15,1996. The complaint and the affidavit are in the format required by N.J.S.A. 54:51A-7.

There appears to be no good reason why the taxpayer, having received an assesment notice for the tax year 1996 increasing the assessment on his property from $101,400 for 1995 to $740,000 for 1996 should not have reviewed that assessment notice, considered it and filed a timely ...


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