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OAS v. COMMONWEALTH (03/07/73)

decided: March 7, 1973.

OAS, ET AL.
v.
COMMONWEALTH, ET AL.



Original jurisdiction in case of David Oas, James Julian and Alice Fulgenzio, individually and on behalf of all citizens of the Girard School District and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and on behalf of all school children of the Girard School District and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Department of Education, Pennsylvania State Tax Equalization Board, State Treasurer Grace Sloan, Girard School District and Edward J. Potter.

COUNSEL

John R. Wingerter, with him Bernard L. Siegel, for plaintiffs.

Irving Murphy, with him Daniel L. R. Miller, MacDonald, Illig, Jones & Britton and McClure, Dart, Miller & Kelleher, for defendants Girard School District and Edward J. Potter.

Thomas J. Oravetz, Deputy Attorney General, with him Israel Packel, Attorney General, for Commonwealth defendants.

President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Kramer.

Author: Kramer

[ 8 Pa. Commw. Page 120]

This case is before this Court on Preliminary Objections. On July 22, 1972, David Oas, James Julian and Alice Fulgenzio (plaintiffs) filed a complaint in equity, "on behalf of themselves and on behalf of all taxpayers in or about the Girard Union [sic] School District and in or about the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from whom taxes are imposed and collected for education by the Girard Union [sic] School District or any other school district of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and also on behalf of all school children of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." The suit was intended to be filed under the original jurisdiction of this Court, as found in the Appellate Court Jurisdiction Act of 1970, Act of July 31, 1970, P.L. 673, as amended, 17 P.S. § 211.401. Named defendants in the case are the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Pennsylvania State Tax Equalization Board, the State Treasurer (Commonwealth defendants) and Girard School District and Edward J. Potter, who is the Tax Collector for the school district (local defendants).

In summary, it would appear that the plaintiffs, faced with a recently enacted substantial increase in local real property taxes for school purposes, filed their complaint with the intention to challenge the constitutionality of the method of financing public school education

[ 8 Pa. Commw. Page 121]

    through taxation by the local school district and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

As will be pointed out hereinafter, the complaint is rather vague and confusing. It consists of five counts. Count I alleges that the real estate property tax, which is levied by the school district, violates the equal protection clauses of both the Pennsylvania and United States Constitutions in that it "insures that the level of education . . . is a function of the wealth . . . of the school district . . . as measured by the tax base. . . ." It states that there is a marked difference in the quality of educational services, equipment and facilities resulting from an inequitable apportionment of State resources; and that this results because the method of financing public education in Pennsylvania is discriminatory in that it is based upon the wealth of local school districts. Count II again alleges that the assessment and collection of local real estate property taxes violates the equal protection clauses of the two constitutions, because Section 603 of the Public School Code of 1949, Act of March 10, 1949, P.L. 30, as amended, 24 P.S. § 6-603, causes disproportionate burdens of taxation for education dependent upon geographic residence determined by arbitrarily drawn boundary lines, within which the wealth of a school district is determined. It also alleges that the variation in the amount paid by taxpayers of the various school districts bears no relationship to the educational needs or opportunity of the students. It further alleges that special grants and aid were given to at least two school districts without similar grants being given to the other school districts in the Commonwealth.

Count III alleges that the real estate property taxes levied by the local school districts violate the uniformity clause of the Constitution of Pennsylvania (art. VIII § 1) in that there is a great disparity in tax rates between school districts based upon their respective

[ 8 Pa. Commw. Page 122]

    wealth. Count IV alleges that the school districts of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have received special grants and aid for educational purposes from the Commonwealth through legislation which violates the special legislation provision of the Pennsylvania Constitution (art. III § 32). Count V states that the real estate property tax levied by the local school districts is an oppressive tax which violates the due process clause of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, ...


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