Original jurisdiction in the case of David L. Long, Roger F. Fosbenner, John D. Young, individually and as representative of a class v. Jean E. Kistler, Chairman, State Tax Equalization Board, Upper Perkiomen School District.
Raymond C. Schlegel, with him Karen Lee Turner, Mogel, Speidel & Roland, for petitioners.
Harris F. Goldich, with him Charles Potash, Wisler, Pearlstine, Talone, Craig & Garrity, for respondent, Upper Perkiomen School District.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Rogers and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Rogers.
[ 72 Pa. Commw. Page 549]
David L. Long, Roger F. Fosbenner and John D. Young (Petitioners) have filed a Petition for Review in the nature of an action in equity for themselves and as representatives of a class of taxpayers in the Upper Perkiomen School District (School District) who reside in Hereford Township, Berks County. Petitioners contend that the tax levy on their properties was not uniform with the tax placed on the property of other residents of the School District, all of whom reside in Montgomery County. Also joined as a respondent in this action is the State Tax Equalization Board (STEB) which, pursuant to Section 672.1 of the Public School Code of 1949 (School Code)*fn1 has determined the ratio of assessed value to market value in the various municipalities for use in equalizing tax levies by the School District. Petitioners contend that STEB's determination of this ratio was without a rational basis and has resulted in the assessment of a greater proportion of the School District's property taxes upon Petitioners and their class than
[ 72 Pa. Commw. Page 550]
is their proper share. Petitioners contend that they have no statutory remedy to correct this illegal action by Respondents School District and STEB and they seek an injunction and a rebate of excess taxes billed to them.
The School District has raised a series of preliminary objections which are: 1) Petitioners have available to them the statutory remedy of the Third Class County Assessment Law (Assessment Law);*fn2 2) Petitioners have failed to allege facts sufficient to sustain a claim under the Federal Civil Rights Act*fn3 against the School District; 3) Petitioners' claims are barred by res judicata or collateral estoppel; 4) Petitioners' suit should be dismissed as not being within this Court's original jurisdiction.
So as to more clearly understand the claims and objections in this case, we shall initially undertake a general examination of the system of school taxation under the School Code and Assessment Law. Under the School Code, property taxes are levied upon the assessed valuation of property in the district as determined by the county assessment.*fn4 In the case of Upper Perkiomen School District, the assessment for Hereford Township would be performed by the Berks County Board of Assessment, whereas the assessment in the rest of the School District is performed by the Montgomery County Board of Assessment. With assessments for the School District being performed by two different bodies, it is of course quite possible even probable that the ratio of assessed value to market value in the two portions of the School District
[ 72 Pa. Commw. Page 551]
would differ.*fn5 In other words, property with a fair market value of $50,000 may be assessed at $10,000 in one county to a multi-county school district, while the assessed value could be $20,000 in the other county. With real property taxes levied by a multi-county school district being based on assessed valuation, it is obvious that persons in one county in the school district could be required to pay more than persons in the second county for property of equal market value. So as to avoid such an unconstitutional tax,*fn6 the Legislature enacted Section 672.2 of the School Code. Under that section, a multi-county school district is required to adjust its tax levy to ...