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March 22, 1951


Appeal, No. 14, May T., 1951, in nature of certiorari, from order of State Tax Equalization Board dated June 12, 1950, Docket No. 34. Motion to quash sustained.


R. Lawrence Coughlin, Special Counsel, with him Paul R. Selecky, Solicitor for Newport Township School District, and Coughlin & Hughes, for appellant.

George W. Keitel, Deputy Attorney General, with him H. Albert Lehrman, Deputy Attorney General and Charles J. Margiotti, Attorney General, for appellee.

Before Drew, C.j., Stern, Stearne, Jones, Bell and Ladner, JJ.

Author: Ladner

[ 366 Pa. Page 604]


This is an appeal in the nature of a certiorari taken by the School District of the Township of Newport from an order of the State Tax Equalization Board of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Deputy Attorney General moves to quash for the reason that, even treating the appeal strictly as a certiorari, we are without power to entertain this writ.

[ 366 Pa. Page 605]

Before pursuing this inquiry it is necessary to determine the nature and character of the State Tax Equalization Board, its purposes and function. This Board was created by the legislature in 1947 (Act of June 27, P.L. 1046, 72 P.S. 4656.1) as an "independent administrative board," for the purpose of (see title of Act) "providing for equalization of assessed valuations of real property throughout the Commonwealth for use in determining the amount and allocation of the Commonwealth subsidies to school districts."

The situation which gave rise to the Act was the lack of uniformity of the taxing districts of the State in establishing the "assessed" value of real property. The Act of May 22, 1933, P.L. 853, as amended, 72 P.S. 5020-402, directs real property to be assessed at its actual value, but in practice there is a wide variation between taxing districts in the percentage of actual value that is taken as the assessed value. That is to say, some taxing districts make the assessed value as low as 20% of the actual value whereas others make the assessed value a full 100% of the actual value. As assessed value of real property of a school district was one of the basic factors in the formula by which the school subsidy is distributed, it followed that this lack of uniformity became, in turn, reflected in a corresponding inequality of distribution of the State school subsidies appropriated to complement funds raised by the local school districts. Thus a school district whose taxes were imposed upon property assessed at a full 100% of its actual value received a much smaller subsidy proportionately than the school district in which the taxable real property was assessed at only 20% of its actual value. It was to remedy this unfair result that the legislature created the State Tax Equalization Board which has the duty under section 7, to determine the "market value" of taxable

[ 366 Pa. Page 606]

    real property in each school district and to certify to the Superintendent of Public Instruction a list showing both the market value of the taxable real property and the assessed value for county tax purposes. The Act expressly provides (sec. 17) it is not to be construed as changing or affecting the validity of the assessed value. The only purpose of the act is to enable the state school subsidy to be divided fairly by substituting the market value found by the Board for the local assessed value in the formula by which the subsidy is allocated.

The only right which this Act gives to any school district is that given by section 13, 72 P.S. 4656.13, which reads, "Any school district aggrieved by any finding or conclusion of the board affecting the amount of any Commonwealth subsidy payable to it, may, in writing, state its objections thereto, and shall thereupon be granted a hearing by the board at which the district shall have the right to submit evidence for the purpose of showing that the findings of the board are incorrect, and to present arguments to substantiate its contentions. After carefully considering all evidence submitted and the arguments of the district, the board shall make such modifications and adjustments of its findings and computations as to it shall appear proper or it may dismiss the objections. In either event the decision of the ...

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