Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, No. 64-12655, in re appeals of Lower Merion Township and School District from Montgomery County Board for the Assessment and Revision of Taxes.
Marvin Comisky, with him Ruth B. Rosenberg, Morris Passon, and Blank, Rudenko, Klaus & Rome, for appellants.
John E. Forsythe, Township Solicitor, with him Donald W. Kramer, Michael F. Beausang, Jr., Herbert Bass, and MacCoy, Evans & Lewis, and Wright, Spencer, Manning & Sagendorph, for appellees.
Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Justice Eagen concurs in the result. Mr. Chief Justice Bell took no part in the consideration or decision of these cases.
In this opinion we dispose of two appeals involving the same parties and closely related issues. Appeal No. 90 challenges the constitutionality of certain sections of the First Class Township Code, the Public School Code, and amendments thereto,*fn1 all of which govern the reassessment of real property to reflect increases in value resulting from new construction made during the tax year.
The taxpayers-appellants, Madway Engineers and Constructors, and Wynnewood House, Inc. own property situated at 1001-1021 City Line Avenue and 300 East Lancaster Avenue respectively. In 1963 appellants began to construct apartments on their properties. During the course of this construction, these properties were assessed three times: on January 1, 1964, April 1, 1964 and July 1, 1964. Each assessment reflected the increase in value caused by the progressing construction. All three assessments were protested by appellants on the ground that the 1963 amendments to the Public School and First Class Township Codes prohibit the interim assessment of residential construction until the property has been occupied or conveyed to a bona fide purchaser.*fn2 The Board for the Assessment
and Revision of Taxes of Montgomery County upheld the assessment of January 1, 1964 on the theory that it was actually an unfinished annual assessment and hence not governed by the interim assessment provisions of the Public School and First Class Township Codes. This ruling was affirmed by the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County and is now the subject of Appeal No. 91. As for the April and July assessments, the board struck them down on the authority of the 1963 amendments, supra note 2. On appeal to the court of common pleas however, the 1963 amendments were declared unconstitutional as violative of the Pennsylvania Constitution's uniformity clause.*fn3 As a result of these two decisions, all three assessments have been upheld below; hence the appeal by the taxpayers.
The April and July Assessments: Appeal No. 90
The basic interim assessment provisions of the First Class Township and Public School Codes provide that upon request of the taxing authority (School District or Township), the authority responsible for assessments shall direct the assessor to inspect and reassess property upon which improvements have been made after September 1 of any given year (September 1 being the date on which the annual assessments are made). These annual assessments are used to compute the tax due the following year. In 1963 however, both codes were amended to prohibit interim assessments for unconveyed or unoccupied residential structures. We agree with the court below that these amendments violate the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Whether the 1963 amendments be interpreted as a classification of real estate into such categories that one category, unoccupied or unconveyed residential property, is not subject to interim assessments, or whether they be treated as simply exempting such property from otherwise permissible interim assessments, the result is still the same: the amendments cannot stand. It is certainly too late in the day to argue that the 1963 amendments qualify as valid tax exemptions. Article IX, § 2 of our constitution clearly states that all exemptions, other than ...