NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued April 30, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Docket No. L-0172-12.
Scott A. Gorman argued the cause for appellant.
Richard J. Mirra argued the cause for respondent (Hoagland, Longo, Moran, Dunst & Doukas, LLP, attorneys; Mr. Mirra, of counsel and on the brief).
Before Judges Alvarez, Waugh, and St. John.
Plaintiff Salvatore Del Priore appeals the Law Division's March 29, 2012 order dismissing his complaint seeking a property-tax refund from defendant Edison Township. We affirm.
The underlying facts are set forth in the trial judge's reported decision. Del Priore v. Edison Twp., 26
N.J.Tax 502, 507-12 (Law Div. 2012).
The gravamen of plaintiff's complaint is that the Township granted all qualified veterans who applied for the exemption before him a refund of property taxes retroactive to the effective date of their disability as determined by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs ("VA"), and that he has been treated differently because he was not granted a fully retroactive refund. Plaintiff contends that the Township's denial of his request for a refund of taxes to the effective date of his disability is contrary to the Township's long-standing past practice and constitutes a violation of the Equal Protection Clause, U.S. Const. amend. XIV and N.J. Const. art. I, ¶ 1.
The court finds the following facts. On April 20, 2006, the VA issued a letter setting forth its determination that plaintiff's wartime service-connected disability was totally disabling, and that the effective date of the disability was September 17, 1997. On April 24, 2006, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 54:4-3.30 to 54:4-3.34, plaintiff filed an application for full exemption from local property taxes for his residence. The municipal assessor granted the application for tax year 2006 on the same date that the application was filed. She wrote to plaintiff and advised him that his application had been granted and also stated that, "I am advising the Tax Collector to arrange a refund of taxes you have paid for the 2006 tax year." By resolution adopted on May 10, 2006, the Edison Township Municipal Council ("Township Council") directed the refund to plaintiff of the first quarter real property taxes for tax year 2006, in the amount of $1, 966.78.
By letter dated June 6, 2006, plaintiff and his wife wrote to the Township Council and requested a refund of local property taxes paid retroactive to September 17, 1997, the date that plaintiff became 100% permanently and totally disabled according to the VA. Their letter noted that the Township Council had, in the past, granted retroactive refunds of taxes back to the effective date of 100% permanent and total disability, and enclosed documentation as to grants of retroactive tax refunds to two other veterans.
By resolution adopted on June 28, 2006, the Township Council authorized a refund of plaintiff's 2005 taxes in the amount of $7, 615.12.
Anthony Cancro, Edison's former business administrator, wrote to plaintiff and his wife on October 31, 2006. According to the letter, Mr. Cancro was writing at the request of the council president to address plaintiff's request for a tax exemption retroactive to September 17, 1997. According to the letter, the Township had interpreted the veteran's exemption statute as not requiring the refund of taxes to a veteran retroactive to the date on which the VA deems the veteran to have become permanently and totally disabled, but rather to the date on which the VA issues its written decision, which in plaintiff's case was April 20, 2006. Mr. Cancro referred to an ...