Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Monroe County, Sept. T., 1950, No. 22, in case of Pinebrook Foundation, Inc. v. Granville Shiffer, Willard Quick, Harry D. Kresge, Commissioners of Monroe County, et al.
John J. Pentz, Jr., with him Russell L. Mervine, for appellants.
Jack C. Briscoe, with him James T. Kitson, for appellee.
Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Cohen.
This is an appeal from the lower court's dismissal of a petition to dissolve an injunction entered in 1956 restraining the collection of taxes.
In 1948, appellee, Pinebrook Foundation, Inc. (Pinebrook), requested appellants, the Commissioners of Monroe County (Commissioners), to exempt its real estate from taxation under "The Fourth to Eighth Class County Assessment Law," Act of May 21, 1943,
P. L. 571, §§ 101-706, 72 P.S. §§ 5453.101-5453.706. The Commissioners refused this request, and, in 1950, Pinebrook filed a complaint in equity praying that a permanent injunction be issued against Commissioners and the tax collector and assessor of the municipality in which the property in question is located restraining the collection of taxes. In 1956 the following final decree was entered: "1. That an injunction as prayed for be issued against the defendants restraining them from collecting taxes levied against the said property for the year 1948 or for any year thereafter, so long as the title to said property remains under the condition under which it is now held and is used in the manner and for the purposes it is now held and used." The decree was based upon extensive findings of facts followed by the conclusion "That Pinebrook Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit corporation and a purely public charity within the meaning of the Constitution of Pennsylvania (Article IX, § 1) and the Act of May 21, 1943, P. L. 571, Article II, § 202 (72 P.S. § 5453.202), and the annexed grounds herein involved are necessary for the occupancy and enjoyment of the same," and that, therefore, the land in question was exempt from taxation.
In 1963, Commissioners filed a motion to dissolve the injunction on the grounds that (1) under the rule of Y.M.C.A. v. Reading, 402 Pa. 592, 167 A.2d 469 (1961) where we held "that, absent a challenge to the constitutionality of a statute or of official action thereunder, equity has no jurisdiction to restrain the collection of taxes," the court of equity in this case no longer had jurisdiction over the matter, (2) under the facts found by the lower court to have existed at the time of the decree Pinebrook had not met the burden of showing that it was within the exemption, and (3) additional improvements had been added to the property of Pinebrook encompassed in the permanent
injunction. Pinebrook responded that (1) the Y.M.C.A. rule had only prospective effect and, therefore, was no basis for attacking the decree entered five years before, (2) the question of whether Pinebrook had met its burden of proof was res judicata, and (3) Commissioners' averments of improvements were immaterial and insufficient to warrant dissolution of the decree.
In our view of the case the jurisdictional question is dispositive.*fn1 The lower court decided that the rule laid down in the Y.M.C.A. case was prospective only and that, therefore, a removal of the 1956 injunction could be obtained only if Commissioners proved that the circumstances surrounding the realty in question had changed sufficiently to warrant the loss of the statutory exemption. In our ...