Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County in case of In Re: Appeal of Neshaminy School District from Board of Assessment Appeals of Bucks County, Tax Parcel: No. 22-031-066, Municipality: Middletown Township, Assessment for the Year 1974, Property of Joseph Saba and Margaret Pyfer, No. 73-9991-01-6.
Donald B. McCoy, with him Dean & McCoy, for appellant.
Thomas J. Profy, III, with him George T. Kelton, and Begley, Carlin, Mandio, Kelton & Popkin, for appellee.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Crumlish, Jr.
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An unfortunate set of circumstances brings this tax assessment appeal from the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County before us. On December 17, 1974, after hearing, but prior to the notes of testimony being transcribed, the lower court entered an order without opinion, sustaining the Neshaminy School District's appeal from the tax assessment of certain properties owned by Joseph Saba, Appellant. That order essentially encompassed three findings, to wit: 1) that the fair market value of the premises, as affected by the so-called Act 515 covenant entered into between the property owners and the County pursuant to the Act of January 13, 1966, P.L. (1965) 1292, as amended, 16 P.S. § 11941 et seq.*fn1 was $731,000.00; 2) that the ratio of assessed to fair market value applied throughout the taxing district was 25%; and 3) that accordingly the assessment of the subject premises was fixed at $182,750.
Following entry of that order, Appellant brought an appeal to this Court without serving notice of the appeal on either the court reporter or the trial judge. The trial court was indeed placed in a precarious position by Appellant's
[ 22 Pa. Commw. Page 261]
failure to notify the court of the basis of the appeal, yet the lower court has admirably produced a thorough memorandum opinion in response to the appeal, thus completing the record for our review.
We have carefully scrutinized the record in light of the issues raised by Appellant with respect to the failure of School District to meet its burden of proof and possible disregard of relevant and credible testimony, and find Appellant's position to be without merit.
The sole disquieting issue which we must address is the error in mechanical calculation of the assessment on the part of the trial judge in entering his order. Facts relevant to disposition of this issue are as follows: In an attempt to establish an appraised value of the tract, the School District's valuation expert, an experienced and well-qualified real estate broker and appraiser, appraised the premises at $860,000.00, a rate of $8,000.00 per acre as unaffected by the Act 515 convenient. He further testified that considering the value depressing effect of the Act 515 covenant, the appraisal would be $688,000. This testimony was accepted as more credible than that of Appellant, who was the sole valuation witness on his own behalf and whose valuation estimate was only $500,000.00 Unfortunately, the trial judge in preparing his order used his own notes and recollection of the School District's expert's testimony because the notes of testimony had not yet been transcribed. It appears that these notes stated that the expert had testified to a gross or unreduced fair market value of $860,000.00 with a discounting factor of 15% in light of the Act 515 covenant. In fact, as the notes of testimony now of record do reflect, the expert had testified to an effective figure of $688,000.00 which indicates that he gave a 20% reduction factor to the Act 515 covenant.
Upon this state of the record, we have little difficulty in concluding that the trial judge had fully intended to give effect to the ...