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D'Amato v. City of Atlantic City

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


January 27, 2010

MICHAEL L. D'AMATO, AND LOIS R. D'AMATO, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
CITY OF ATLANTIC CITY, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.

On appeal from the Tax Court of New Jersey, Docket No. 1158-2008.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted January 12, 2010

Before Judges Fuentes and Gilroy.

Taxpayers Michael L. D'Amato and Lois L. D'Amato appeal from the April 24, 2009 order of the Tax Court that affirmed the judgment of the Atlantic County Board of Taxation (the Board), regarding the 2008 assessment on their residential condominium in the City of Atlantic City (City). We affirm.

Taxpayers are the owners of a high-rise residential penthouse condominium unit in the Ocean Club Condominium located at 3101 Boardwalk, and known as Block 28, Lot 397, Unit C3404, in the City. In 2007, the City engaged Certified Valuations, Inc., to conduct a revaluation of all properties within the City. Certified determined the fair market value of the taxpayers' condominium unit as of October 1, 2007, effective for the 2008 tax year, as $1,076,200 (land assessment of $850,000; improvements assessment of $226,200).

On March 7, 2008, because taxpayers were unable to obtain answers as to how Certified reached its valuation, taxpayers filed an appeal with the Board seeking to reduce the assessment. On June 2, 2008, the Board entered a Memorandum of Judgment, affirming the City's assessment. On September 4, 2008, taxpayers filed an appeal with the Tax Court. On April 15, 2009, following a trial in the matter, the Tax Court judge rendered an oral decision affirming the judgment of the Board, determining taxpayers had not overcome the presumption of correctness that attaches to a municipality's original tax assessment. On April 24, 2009, the Tax Court entered a confirming judgment.

On appeal, taxpayers argue that the Tax Court erred in determining they had failed to overcome the presumption of correctness of the local tax assessment, contending that they had presented definite, positive and certain evidence, in both quantity and quality, establishing the fair market assessment of their condominium unit as $421,949.49.

The scope of appellate review from a Tax Court determination "is the same as that applicable to a non-jury determination of any other trial court." 125 Monitor St. v. Jersey City, 23 N.J. Tax 9, 13 (App. Div. 2005). "[J]udges presiding in the Tax Court have special expertise; for that reason their findings will not be disturbed unless they are plainly arbitrary or there is a lack of substantial credible evidence to support them." Alpine Country Club v. Bor. of Demarest, 354 N.J. Super. 387, 390 (App. Div. 2002) (quoting Glenpointe Assoc. v. Twp. of Teaneck, 241 N.J. Super. 37, 46 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 122 N.J. 391 (1990)).

Principles governing real property tax appeals are well settled.

On appeal, a municipality's original tax assessment is entitled to a presumption of validity. The presumption attaches to the quantum of the tax assessment. Based on this presumption, the appealing taxpayer has the burden of proving that the assessment is erroneous. The presumption in favor of the taxing authority can be rebutted only by cogent evidence, a proposition that has been long settled. The strength of the presumption is exemplified by the nature of the evidence that is required to overcome it. That evidence must be definite, positive and certain in quality and quantity to overcome the presumption. [Pantasote Co. v. City of Passaic, 100 N.J. 408, 412-13 (1985) (internal quotations and citations omitted).]

The same presumption of validity is accorded to the judgment of a County Board of Taxation "when it is the determination of that body that is challenged before the Tax Court." Byram Twp. v. Western World, Inc., 111 N.J. 222, 235 (1988).

We have considered taxpayers' argument in light of the record and applicable law. We conclude that their argument is without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). We affirm substantially for the reasons expressed by Judge Small in his oral decision of April 15, 2009. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(A).

Affirmed.

20100127

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