Appeals from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, in case of Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, R. Gordon Mathews and Jack L. Friedlander v. Chartiers Valley School District and Township of Scott, No. GD83-14605.
Leonard M. Mendelson, Hollinshead & Mendelson, for appellants/appellees, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, R. Gordon Mathews and Jack L. Friedlander.
Robert L. Federline, with him, Thomas J. Dempsey, for appellees/appellants, Chartiers Valley School District and Township of Scott.
Judges Craig and Palladino, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Palladino.
[ 110 Pa. Commw. Page 173]
These cross-appeals by Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, R. Gordon Mathews and Jack L. Friedlander, as taxpayers, and Chartiers Valley School District and Scott Township, as taxing bodies, are part of a continuing series of tax assessment appeals involving Chatham Park Apartments.
Chatham Park Apartments are owned by the taxpayers and located on three lots in Scott Township, Allegheny County. These lots are identified as Parcel 64-B-190, Parcel 64-G-2 and Parcel 64-G-50 in the Deed Assessment and Registry Office of Allegheny County.
Taxpayers initiated real estate tax assessment appeals for numerous years, involving all three parcels, before the Board of Property Assessment and Review of
[ 110 Pa. Commw. Page 174]
Allegheny County (Board). By decision dated December 21, 1977, the Board revised the assessment of Parcel 64-G-50 for the years beginning 1969 up to and including the assessment for 1978. Thereafter, on July 21, 1978, the Board revised the assessments of Parcels 64-B-190 and 64-G-2 for the years 1976, 1977 and 1978. Both Board decisions were appealed to the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County (trial court) by the taxing bodies.
Following a trial de novo on the assessment appeals, the Honorable Raymond L. Scheib, judge of the trial court, entered an order dated April 25, 1980 revising the assessments for taxpayers' property through and including 1979. We affirmed.*fn1 On October 19, 1982, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused the taxing bodies any further appeal, while, on the same date, granting Allocatur to the taxpayers. However, by order dated March 17, 1983, the taxpayers' petition was dismissed as improvidently granted.
In the interim, while the revised assessments for 1969-1979 were pending in our appellate courts, the Board rendered a revised assessment of the subject parcels for 1980 and 1981. On December 17, 1980, upon the petition of the taxpayers and over objection by the taxing bodies, Judge Scheib entered an order permitting the taxpayers to pay their 1980 real estate taxes into court. No one appealed. By order dated June 26, 1981 Judge Scheib ordered the funds be distributed to the taxing bodies.
On October 22, 1981, Judge Scheib ordered the taxing authorities to issue the 1980 refunds or to accept the 1981 taxes based upon the reduced 1981 assessment and minus the 1980 refund. That same day, taxpayers
[ 110 Pa. Commw. Page 175]
tendered an amount equal to their 1981 tax liability less the amount taxpayers had overpaid their 1980 taxes based on the Board's February 6, 1981 revised assessment for 1980 and 1981 to the taxing authorities, which tenders were refused. Thereafter, on October 30, 1981, Judge Scheib, upon petition of the taxpayers and over the objection of the taxing bodies, ordered the 1981 tax liability paid into court. The taxing bodies appealed Judge Scheib's October 22 and October 30 orders to Commonwealth Court.
While the appeal was pending before this court, the parties entered into two agreements. The first agreement dated December 15, 1982, provided for the payment of taxes due the taxing bodies and the payment of refunds due the taxpayers for the years 1969 through 1979. The second agreement dated February 23, 1983, provided that notwithstanding the continuing contest by the taxing bodies of the validity of the court orders, the taxpayers would withdraw all monies deposited with the prothonotary of the trial court as well as all interest accrued thereon and promptly pay all 1980, 1981 and 1982 real estate taxes not previously paid. While the taxpayers were not required to pay any interest or penalties claimed by the taxing bodies, the agreements provided that the acceptance of the monies was without prejudice to either party to assert their claim against the other that penalties and interest were due and payable.
On December 12, 1983, the Commonwealth Court reversed the orders of Judge Scheib, concluding that the trial court was without jurisdiction to require the payment into court of the 1981 taxes or the payment of tax to the taxing bodies less any refund due as a result of the Board's revaluation because no party had preserved an appeal as to the 1980 and 1981 tax reductions,
[ 110 Pa. Commw. Page 176]
and no common law or statutory action existed which could give it jurisdiction.*fn2
Taxpayers filed the subject action for the payment of interest they allege is due them on the refunds resulting from the court reduced assessments. The taxing bodies counterclaimed, seeking penalties and interest they assert is owing for the late payment of taxes. The case was assigned to the Honorable Gene Strassburger, Judge of the trial court. The parties entered into a stipulation of facts and the case was tried by stipulation.
Judge Strassburger filed an opinion on February 6, 1985 concluding that taxpayers were entitled to interest on the refunds accruing from a date one year after the Board's assessment disposition. Further, the Judge determined that the taxing bodies could assess penalties for 1981, since this court had reversed Judge Scheib's order but could not for tax year 1980, when Judge Scheib's order was not appealed and, thus, ...