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CAMPBELL ET AL. v. COATESVILLE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT (10/09/70)

decided: October 9, 1970.

CAMPBELL ET AL., APPELLANTS,
v.
COATESVILLE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT



Appeal from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, No. 2038 of 1968, in case of John Campbell et al. v. Coatesville Area School District et al.

COUNSEL

A. Bruce Niccolo, with him Arthur A. Moorshead, and Moorshead & Niccolo, for appellants.

Franklin L. Gordon, with him Milton Apfelbaum, for appellees.

Bell, C. J., Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Jones. Mr. Justice Cohen, Mr. Justice Eagen and Mr. Justice Pomeroy concur in the result. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Chief Justice Bell joins in this dissent.

Author: Jones

[ 440 Pa. Page 498]

In this appeal we are confronted basically with the same factual situation and legal principles presented to this Court in Crosson v. Downingtown Area School District, 440 Pa. 468, 270 A.2d 377 (1970).

Appellants, taxpayers, in the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County in an equity action sought to enjoin a school district*fn1 and its tax collectors from collecting occupation taxes and to have the taxes declared invalid and unconstitutional. The occupational classification and assessment schedule is identical to that in Crosson although the tax resolution is different as to both the exemptions as well as the rate of taxation.*fn2 Again, as in Crosson, the authority for the school district's action was The Local Tax Enabling Act, Act of December 31, 1965, P. L. 1257, § 1 et seq., 53 P.S. § 6901 et seq. (Supp. 1970).

The same collateral issues raised in Crosson concerning the occupational assessments made by the county assessing authorities upon which the tax was levied were raised below in the case at bar. An additional collateral argument was raised that, although each type of occupation was valued by the chief county assessor prior to the resolution, the occupation of each individual taxpayer situated within the school district was not

[ 440 Pa. Page 499]

    pigeon-holed within the aforementioned occupational schedule until after the resolution was adopted. Hence, the argument is made that the county assessment at the time of the levy was improper and incomplete.

While a direct challenge to the tax resolution, comparable to that in Crosson, was advanced to the effect that the tax was not assessed and levied within the time provided by statute, two novel contentions were asserted: (1) the tax violates the Uniformity Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution, Article VIII, § 1, as it was the averred policy of the school district to create a de facto exemption for persons under twenty-one or over sixty-five or earning less than $600 per year, even though such exemptions were not included in the resolution; and (2) the schedule of occupational classification incorporated into the tax resolution is so vague and indefinite as to be unconstitutional.

The chancellor, by an adjudication dated June 2, 1969, entered a decree nisi dismissing the complaints, exceptions to this decree were dismissed by the court en banc and a final decree was entered on October 20, 1969. This appeal followed.

Turning to the collateral issues concerning the allegedly improper assessment procedures, appellee argued and the chancellor and the court en banc agreed, that a court of equity does not have jurisdiction or competency to determine the controversy. As to this contention we could simply affirm on the basis of Crosson. However, since the proper jurisdiction of equity in tax disputes has recently been expanded as well as contracted in a trilogy of cases, perhaps a more thorough explanation of this development is in order. The first of these cases, Lynch v. Owen J. Roberts Sch. Dist., 430 Pa. ...


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