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MORRIS v. BOARD PROPERTY ASSESSMENT (12/16/66)

decided: December 16, 1966.

MORRIS
v.
BOARD OF PROPERTY ASSESSMENT, APPEALS AND REVIEW, APPELLANT



Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Oct. T., 1960, No. 1899, in case of Charles M. Morris et al. v. Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review.

COUNSEL

James Victor Voss, Assistant County Solicitor, with him Francis A. Barry, First Assistant County Solicitor, and Maurice Louik, County Solicitor, for appellant.

William H. Eckert, with him Eckert, Seamans & Cherin, for appellees.

Ervin, P. J., Wright, Watkins, Montgomery, Jacobs, Hoffman, and Spaulding, JJ. Opinion by Jacobs, J. Watkins, J., dissents.

Author: Jacobs

[ 209 Pa. Super. Page 98]

In 1960 the appellees, Charles M. Morris and Henry Ellenbogen, hereinafter called owners, appealed to the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County from the triennial assessment of their shopping center at 1109 Brownsville Road, City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County. Such assessment as fixed by the appellant, Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review, of Allegheny County, hereinafter called the Board, for the

[ 209 Pa. Super. Page 99]

    years 1960, 1961 and 1962 was in the total amount of $187,900 and was broken down between land and building. Land was assessed at $49,900 and building at $138,000. At the trial in June 1963 the owners stated that only the assessment on the land was in contention and the Board and Court treated the appeal as applying solely to the land, there being no objection to the assessment figure of the building. After trial, the court reduced the assessment on the land to $29,500.

The Board appealed to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania which remitted the appeal to this court on the ground that since the "amount in controversy" must be measured by the amount of taxes sought to be avoided, which it found to be less than $10,000, sole jurisdiction lay in this court by virtue of the Act of August 14, 1963, P.L. 819, § 1, 17 P.S. § 184. Morris v. Board of Property Assessment, 417 Pa. 192, 209 A.2d 407 (1965).

The court below treated only the land as being involved and gave no consideration to the assessment of the entire property. Even though this was done with the consent of the parties, it was improper and is in direct conflict with the holding of North Park Village, Inc. v. Board of Property Assessments, Appeals and Review, 408 Pa. 433, 184 A.2d 253 (1962), and several more recent Supreme Court decisions, which have reaffirmed the North Park Village case and have insisted upon compliance therewith.

In North Park Village, supra, at p. 436 the Court said: "In Allegheny County, real estate is required to be assessed according to the actual value thereof: Act of May 22, 1933, P.L. 853, § 402, as amended by the Act of May 16, 1939, P.L. 143, § 1, 72 P.S. § 5020-402. This means the entire property and not merely its constituent elements. While it is perfectly legal for the assessor to enumerate the constituent parts of a single subject of taxation and the value placed on

[ 209 Pa. Super. Page 100]

    each, it is the reasonableness of the total assessment that is controlling. The total assessment of both land and improvements as a unit is the factor to be considered in determining the correctness of the assessment: Pittsburgh Terminal Coal Co. Appeals, 83 Pa. Superior Ct. 535 (1924); and Hammermill Paper Co. v. Erie, supra. Of course, the unit or total assessment may not exceed the fair market value of the entire property. On appeal to the court of common pleas, ' the question . . . is not whether the value placed upon certain constituent elements properly ...


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