Original jurisdiction in the case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Game Commission v. Luzerne County Tax Claim Bureau, Luzerne County Board of Assessment Appeals.
Stuart M. Bliwas, Chief Counsel, with him William R. Pouss, Assistant Counsel, for plaintiff.
Sol Lubin, Winkler, Danoff and Lubin, for defendant, Luzerne County Board of Assessment Appeals.
John J. Gill, Jr., for defendant, Luzerne County Tax Claim Bureau.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Blatt and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail.
The Commonwealth, Pennsylvania Game Commission) has filed a complaint in equity, addressed to our original jurisdiction, against the Luzerne County Tax Claim Bureau (Bureau) and the Luzerne County Board of Assessment Appeals (Board). The Commission challenges the levying of real estate taxes on certain of its property by the Lake-Lehman School District (District) for the fiscal year 1979-1980 and requests injunctive relief to prevent the Bureau from selling the land for delinquent taxes, to order the Bureau to discharge the lien against the property and to order the Board to remove the property from the Luzerne County tax assessment roll. The Bureau and Board have filed an answer to the complaint and the Commission has moved for judgment on the pleadings.
From the undisputed facts in the pleadings we learn that the Commission, on or about February 22, 1979, acquired title to a 3,119.43 acre tract located within the District in Luzerne County.*fn1 Property purchased by the Commonwealth for Commission use is exempt from taxation by virtue of Section 204(a)(7) of The General County Assessment Law, Act of May 22, 1933, P.L. 853, as amended, 72 P.S. § 5020-204(a)(7) and Section 905 of The Game Law, Act of June 3, 1937, P.L. 1225, as amended, 34 P.S. § 1311.905. The Commission, accordingly, sent notice of the purchase to the Luzerne County Commissioners and requested that the land be removed from the County's tax assessment roll beginning in 1980. The property was removed from the County's assessment records effective February 22, 1979. Taxes were subsequently levied by the District on the subject property for its fiscal year beginning July 1, 1979. The levy was based on the 1979 assessment roll which included the subject property. The roll was prepared prior to the purchase of the property by the Commission. Since the Commission failed to pay the levied taxes, the Bureau has taken statutorily prescribed measures to collect the delinquency.
The issue raised by the Commission here is whether real estate taxes may be collected when they are levied after certain real estate becomes tax-exempt but are based on an annual assessment which was set prior to the date on which the property became exempt.
In their answer to the Commission's complaint, the Board and Bureau allege that the Commission has an adequate remedy at law "under the provisions of the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania pertaining to assessments." Since this allegation is an objection to the failure of the Commission to exercise a statutory remedy, it raises a question of subject matter jurisdiction which we must address. See Lashe v. Northern Page 23} York County School District, 52 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 541, 417 A.2d 260 (1980).*fn2
The law is clear that where the General Assembly has provided a mandatory and exclusive statutory remedy, equity lacks subject matter jurisdiction. DeLuca v. Buckeye Coal Co., 463 Pa. 513, 345 A.2d 637 (1975). It is also recognized that where a statutory remedy exists, it is the exclusive remedy unless the statute also preserves the jurisdiction of the courts. Myers v. Department of Revenue, 55 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 509, 423 A.2d 1101 (1980), aff'd, Pa. , 430 A.2d 1154 (1981). We must, therefore, ...