Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in case of J. Donald McKinney, et al. v. The Board of Commissioners of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, No. G.D. 77-01473.
Thomas M. Rutter, Jr., Second Assistant County Solicitor, with him Alexander J. Jaffurs, County Solicitor, for appellant.
T. Robert Brennan, with him Harvey E. Robins, and Brennan, Robins & Daley, for appellees.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers, Blatt and DiSalle. Opinion by Judge Rogers.
This is yet another case concerning the assessment of real property for local tax purposes in Allegheny County.*fn1 Here a group of taxpayers filed a petition for declaratory judgment in the Court of Common Pleas naming the Board of Commissioners of Allegheny County as respondents and asking the court to
decide whether a recent amendment to the General County Assessment Law, Act of May 22, 1933, P.L. 853, as amended, 72 P.S. § 5020-1 et seq. should apply to assessments in Allegheny County. The court below, by a judge of a judicial district other than Allegheny County, specially presiding, decided that the amendment applied, with the result, if this judgment stands, that the certification in 1977 of revised assessments for an approximate third of all real property in the county was nullified and substantial refunds of taxes levied in 1977 (and now 1978) required. The county commissioners have appealed.
The petitioners below have filed two motions to quash the appeal, both of which we conclude are without merit. One motion says the matter in controversy is moot because the County Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review, has, since this case began, taken action to abandon the triennial assessment by district method of assessment which was centrally questioned in this litigation. The matter is clearly far from moot since, as we have just observed, substantial refunds of taxes will be required to be made in upwards of 65 municipalities, not to mention the county. Further, the Board of Property Assessment may decide to reinstitute the triennial assessment by district method, if it should be held not to have been affected by the amendment relied on by the petitioners below. The petitioners' other motion to quash asserts that this appeal is interlocutory because an equity action involving the same legal issue but asking different relief was consolidated with this case for disposition below and was not finally disposed of by the court below.*fn2 The judgment entered below in this declaratory judgment case was clearly final. Actions, although consolidated for trial, retain
their separate identity. See Goodrich-Amram Procedural Rules Service § 213(a)-13. The motions to quash will be dismissed.
The assessment, that is, valuation,*fn3 of persons, property, and other subjects of taxation for county, borough, township and school district purposes is performed in Pennsylvania in the counties. The counties of Pennsylvania are divided into nine classes from First Class, consisting of those having a population of more than 1,800,000 inhabitants to Eighth Class, consisting of those having a population of less than 20,000 inhabitants. Second Class counties are those having a population of more than 800,000 but less than 1,800,000 inhabitants. Allegheny is the only county of the Second Class.
The assessment process in the several counties is regulated first by a group of Acts, each tailored to the uses of a particular class or classes. Hence, the subject of assessment in First Class counties is regulated by the Act of June 27, 1939, P.L. 1199, as amended, 72 P.S. § 5341.1 et seq.; in counties of the Second Class A and Third Class by the Act of June 26, 1931, P.L. 1379, as amended, 72 P.S. § 5342 et seq.; and in counties of the Fourth to Eighth Class ...