Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County in case of In Re: Appeal of Marple Mewtown School District from Decision of Board of Assessment Appeals of Delaware County, exempting premises known as Devereux Foundation, St. Davids Road, Newtown Square, Pennsylvania for the Year 1976 -- Folio Nos. 612-163 and 615 (Now Folio 83 Exempt), No. 75-19091.
Brian E. Bennett, with him Greenwall, Porter, Smaltz & Royal, for appellant.
Vram Nedurian, Jr., with him Bruce A. Irvine, for appellees.
Ross A. Unruh, and MacElree, Harvey, Gallagher & Kean, Ltd., for amicus Curiae, West Chester Area School District.
Judges Wilkinson, Jr., DiSalle and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge DiSalle. Dissenting Opinion by Judge MacPhail.
[ 39 Pa. Commw. Page 328]
We must decide whether Devereux Foundation (Devereux), a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation, has been founded, endowed, and maintained to a sufficient degree by public or private charity to entitle it to a property tax exemption.
The property in question was assessed at $81,300 and Devereux had paid the taxes up to and including 1975. In 1976, however, Devereux chose to appeal the property assessment. On its appeal to the Delaware County Board of Assessment Appeals (Board), Devereux was granted an exemption. The Marple Newtown School District, with Newtown Township intervening, appealed the decision to the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County. In its order dated December 13, 1977, the lower court sustained the appeal and reversed the Board's action. We affirm.
Devereux's claim to exemption from taxation stems from the grant in Article VIII, Section 2 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that:
(a) The General Assembly may by law exempt from taxation:
(v) Institutions of purely public charity, but in the case of any real property tax exemptions only that portion of real property of such institution which is actually and regularly used for the purposes of the institution. (Emphasis added.)
[ 39 Pa. Commw. Page 329]
By the enactment of Section 204 of The General County Assessment Law, Act of May 22, 1933, P.L. 853, as Page 329} amended, 72 P.S. § 5020-204, the General Assembly established certain classifications of property which may be exempted and provided, inter alia :
(a) The following property shall be exempt from all county, city, borough, town, township, road, poor and school tax, to wit:
(3) All hospitals, universities, colleges, seminaries, academies, associations and institutions of learning, benevolence, or charity, including fire and rescue stations, with the grounds thereto annexed and necessary for the occupancy and enjoyment of the same, founded, endowed, and maintained by public or private charity : Provided, That the entire revenue derived by the same be applied to the support and to increase the efficiency and facilities thereof, the repair and the necessary increase of grounds and buildings thereof, and for no other purpose; (Emphasis added.)
The underlying philosophy of the constitutionally-authorized and legislatively-enacted tax exemption was explained by our Supreme Court as follows:
Taxes are not penalties, but are contributions which all inhabitants are expected to make (and may be compelled to make) for the support of the manifold activities of government. Every inhabitant and every parcel of property receives governmental protection. Such protection costs money. When any inhabitant fails to contribute his share of the costs of this protection, some other inhabitant must contribute more than his ...