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In re Appeal of Borough of Riegelsville from the Bucks County Board of Assessment and Revision of Taxes

March 25, 2009

IN RE: APPEAL OF BOROUGH OF RIEGELSVILLE FROM THE BUCKS COUNTY BOARD OF ASSESSMENT AND REVISION OF TAXES BUCKS COUNTY TAX MAP PARCEL NOS. 38-004-001, 38-002-072-003 AND 38-002-072-004 APPEAL OF: BOROUGH OF RIEGELSVILLE


Per curiam.

ORDER

NOW, August 4, 2008, it is ordered that the above-captioned Memorandum Opinion, filed March 25, 2009, shall be designated OPINION and shall be REPORTED.

BEFORE: HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, Judge, HONORABLE RENÉE COHN JUBELIRER, Judge, HONORABLE MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, Judge.

OPINION

The present case involves the nunc pro tunc application for real property tax exemption filed by the Borough of Riegelsville (Borough) with the Bucks County Board of Assessment Appeals (Board). The Borough appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County (trial court) which affirmed the Board's denial of nunc pro tunc relief.

The facts of the case are not in dispute. On December 23, 2006, the Borough acquired three properties by a single deed from the Trustees of the Joseph D. Ceader Family Memorial Fund (Trustees). The Borough acquired the properties for the purpose of creating open space and, in accordance with applicable open space ordinances and statutes, placed restrictions for the use of the properties on the deed. Under Section 204(a)(7) of The General County Assessment Law (Law),*fn1 these properties were eligible for tax exemption based on their public ownership and their open space status. The Borough recorded the deed in mid-January 2007.

On March 1, 2007 the Board issued a separate Assessment Notice for each of the three properties that gave new assessment values and listed the reason for each change. One of the forms indicated that the change was because of "parcel split." (#3 Ceader Place Assessment Notice). The remaining two notices indicated that the "reason(s) for change" was that each was a "new parcel." (#5A Ceader Place Assessment Notice; #5B Ceader Place Assessment Notice.)*fn2 Each Assessment Notice indicated that the assessments were effective January 1, 2007 and each also contained the following language:

APPEAL MUST BE RECEIVED BY

04/10/2007

Any person aggrieved by such change of reassessment may appeal by timely filing a completed Bucks County Assessment Appeal form at the office of the Board.... Forms are available at the Assessment office.

(#3 Ceader Place Assessment Notice; #5A Ceader Place Assessment Notice; #5B Ceader Place Assessment Notice.) The Board mistakenly sent the Assessment Notices to the Trustees, who were incorrectly identified on each Assessment Notice as the owner of each property.

On March 27, 2007, the Trustees forwarded these three Assessment Notices to the Borough. On April 10, 2007, Counsel for the Borough personally went to the office of the Board. Counsel informed an official with the Board that the Trustees were incorrectly listed as owners of the three properties. The Board Official informed Counsel that "all records with the Board in as much as they concerned the Borough's ownership of the [three properties] were 'o.k.'" (Statement of Appeal Nunc pro tunc ¶ 7.) Counsel for the Borough "mistakenly took this to mean that the Board also recognized the tax-exempt status of the [three properties] in light of the information on file with the Recorder of Deeds."

(Statement of Appeal Nunc pro tunc ¶ 8.) In the ensuing months, the Borough learned that the Board had not given the three properties tax exempt status.

On July 13, 2007, the Borough filed an Application for the Exemption of Real Estate for each of the three properties (Applications). In these Applications, the Borough sought to appeal nunc pro tunc the tax status of each property for calendar year 2007. By letter dated July 17, 2007, the Board informed Counsel for the Borough that it "agreed to place the [properties] into exempt status effective January 1, 2008 for county and borough tax purposes and July 1, 2008 ...


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