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JONES AND LAUGHLIN TAX ASSESSMENT CASE. (12/05/61)

December 5, 1961

JONES AND LAUGHLIN TAX ASSESSMENT CASE.


Appeals, Nos. 81, 82 and 83, March T., 1961, from orders of Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County, June T., 1959, No. 349, in re appeal from tax assessment for year 1959 on property situate in Aliquippa owned and occupied by Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation. Order affirmed with modification and record remanded.

COUNSEL

John A. Metz, Jr., with him Clarence D. Neish, Arthur S. Herskovitz, Guy L. Warman, and Metz, Cook, Hanna & Kelly, for appellants.

Harold F. Reed, Jr., with him Reed, Ewing, Orr & Reed, for intervening appellee.

Robert K. Greenfield, Edward Greer, and Folz, Bard, Kamsler, Goodis & Greenfield, and Cadwallader, Darlington & Clarke, for School District of Falls Township, under Rule 46.

Samuel M. Snipes and William F. Heefner, for Board of Supervisors of Falls Township, under Rule 46.

Henry T. Reath, Claude C. Smith, and Duane, Morris & Heckscher, for United States Steel Corporation, under Rule 46.

Before Bell, C.j., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen and Alpern, JJ.

Author: Eagen

[ 405 Pa. Page 424]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE EAGEN.

This case involves the correctness of the assessment levied against the taxable real estate of the Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation situate in the Borough of Aliquippa, Beaver County, Pennsylvania.

In 1955, the county commissioners directed a reassessment of all taxable real estate within the territorial boundaries of the county. They engaged the services of Cole-Layer-Trumble Company, an appraisal firm from Dayton, Ohio, to conduct the necessary reappraisals.*fn1 In 1958, the appraisal was completed and adopted by the Board of Assessment and Revision of Taxes as the basis for county tax assessments for the year 1959. As a result, the assessed valuation of real estate of the Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation, located in the Borough of Aliquippa, was reduced from the sum of $21,365,945 to $17,528,400. The further result was to shift 22.8% of the total real estate assessment

[ 405 Pa. Page 425]

    of the borough from the corporation to other taxpayers.

The Borough of Aliquippa appealed from the board's assessment to the court of common pleas. The steel corporation, and the school district of the borough, were permitted to intervene. The court dismissed the appeal. From that order, the borough and the school district appealed.

Beaver County is a fourth class county and in assessing taxable real estate within its territorial limits is governed by the Act of May 21, 1943, P.L. 571, as amended, 72 PS § 5453.101 et seq. Section 201 of the Act of 1943, provided as follows: "The following subjects and property shall as hereinafter provided be valued and assessed and subject to taxation for all county, borough, town, township, school (except in cities) poor and county institution district purposes, at the annual rate, (a) All real estate, to wit: Houses, buildings, lands, lots of ground and ground rents, mills and manufactories of all kinds, and all other real estate not exempt by law from taxation."

Under this statute, as then written, in levying the tax against a steel mill such as the one involved, the mill itself and all things included in the operation, whether fast or loose, which necessarily constituted an integral part, were valued and assessed as realty. This was the established practice under the law. See, Messenger Publishing Co. v. Allegheny County Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review, 183 Pa. Superior Ct. 407, 132 A.2d 768 (1957), wherein at page 408, the Court said: "There is a rule in Pennsylvania that 'a chattel placed in an industrial establishment for permanent use, and necessary to the operation of the plant, becomes a fixture and as such a part of the real estate, although not physically attached thereto; in other words, if the article, whether fast or loose, be indispensable in carrying on the specific business, it becomes

[ 405 Pa. Page 426]

    a part of the realty.' Titus v. Poland Coal Co., 275 Pa. 431, 436-7, 119 A. 540 (1923). See also Gray v. Holdship, 17 S. & R. 413 (1828); Voorhis v. Freeman, 2 W. & S. 116 (1841); Patterson v. Delaware County, 70 Pa. 381 (1872), and Central Lithograph Company v. Eatmor Chocolate Company, 316 Pa. 300, 175 A. 697 (1934). This principle, which has come to be known as the 'assembled industrial plant ...


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