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AIRWAY ARMS v. MOON AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT (05/28/82)

decided: May 28, 1982.

AIRWAY ARMS, INCORPORATED, D/B/A AIRPORT MOBIL SERVICE, ET AL., APPELLEES,
v.
MOON AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLANT. JAMES E. TRICCO, JAMES A. DAVIS, ET AL., APPELLEES, V. MOON AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLANT



No. 81-1-66, No. 81-1-67, Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court filed April 30, 1981, at No. 1313 C.D. 1979, Affirming the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Civil Division, at Nos. S.A. 398-1979 and S.A. 421-1979.

COUNSEL

John A. Robb, Jr., Robb, Leonard & Mulvihill, Pittsburgh, for appellants.

Richard H. Martin, Joan P. Feldman, Baskin & Sears, Pittsburgh, for appellees in No. 66.

John H. Bingler, Jr., Jeffrey S. Blum, Glenn E. Bost, II, Thorp, Reed & Armstrong, Pittsburgh, for appellees in No. 67.

Roberts, Nix, Larsen, McDermott and Hutchinson, JJ. Roberts and McDermott, JJ., concurred in the result. Flaherty, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Nix

[ 498 Pa. Page 291]

OPINION

The Moon Area School District (District) imposed a local tax on paid parking in the district. In this consolidated appeal,*fn1 we are asked to consider whether 1) appellees have standing to prosecute the actions, 2) the tax violates the Commerce and Due Process Clauses of the United States Constitution and 3) such a tax is authorized under the Local Tax Enabling Act, Act No. 511 of 1965, as amended, 53 P.S. § 6901 et seq. (the Act).

I.

On March 26, 1979 Moon Area School District pursuant to the Act enacted Resolution 79-2 which sets out a parking tax upon parking in all non-residential parking facilities located within the district for the purpose of raising revenues for the operation of the schools in the district. The resolution requires patrons to pay a tax at the rate of 15% of the consideration for each parking transaction. Operators of non-residential parking places are required to obtain a registration certificate at an annual cost of Ten ($10.00) Dollars, to collect the parking tax from patrons, keep chronological records of all transactions, and file monthly returns with the tax collector. Any operator's failure to comply with certain conditions subjects the operator to a monetary penalty that may equal 100% of the proper tax as well as penalty and interest. Criminal sanctions not to exceed $500.00, or upon default, imprisonment of less than thirty days are also provided.*fn2

[ 498 Pa. Page 294]

There are presently six non-residential parking operations which provide an approximate aggregate of six thousand one hundred fifty (6,150) parking spaces. A substantial number of these spaces are used by persons utilizing the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport as all of the parking lots are closely situate in the locale of the Airport.*fn3 Air traffic at the airport is both interstate and intrastate.

Challenges to the tax are residents of the school district, non-residents of the district, two airlines that service the airport and have an interest in the parking lot at the airport, operators of several of the lots, and the owner/lessors of the realty on which the parking concessions operate. These challengers filed appeals from the tax levy on April 6, 1979. On the same day, by order of then Judge John Flaherty, the appeals acted as a supersedeas until hearing which was held May 7, 1979.*fn4 The lower court declared the tax unconstitutional. The Commonwealth Court affirmed the lower court.

[ 498 Pa. Page 295]

The District petitioned for allowance of appeal from the decision of the Commonwealth Court in both cases to this Court. The petitions were granted and the appeals consolidated.

Appellant raised the questions of appellees standing to attack the validity of the tax through preliminary objections which were denied below. The essence of appellant's standing argument on appeal is that appellees did not allege specifically that they were "taxpayers" and "aggrieved parties," the standing requirements of the Act,*fn5 and that being subjected to the tax if appellees choose to park in one of the non-residential parking facilities is insufficient as a matter of law to establish standing. We find the arguments unpersuasive.

The argument that appellees have not specifically alleged they are taxpayers and aggrieved is anachronistic. Hypertechnicality and formalism in pleading does not promote a prompt determination of the validity of the taxing resolution, as envisioned by the legislature in enacting Section 6 of the Act.*fn6 Further, such formalism is "a reversion to seventeenth century pleading"*fn7 contra the modern trend.

[ 498 Pa. Page 296]

    to be filed by prescribing an effective date at least thirty (30) days from the time of adoption of the taxing ordinance or resolution. If appellants were to succeed in their contention of prematurity, appeals not premature would be too late and no patron would be able to challenge the tax. All patrons able to file timely appeals from the tax are potential patrons. To hold that such persons do not have standing, which is absurd, contravenes the presumption "that the General Assembly does not intend a ...


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