Farmingdale Realty Co. v. Borough of Farmingdale

Citation250 A.2d 29,104 N.J.Super. 314
Decision Date31 January 1969
Docket NumberNo. A--1808,A--1808
PartiesFARMINGDALE REALTY CO., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. BOROUGH OF FARMINGDALE, Defendant-Respondent.
CourtNew Jersey Superior Court — Appellate Division

John Warren, Jr., Red Bank, for appellant (Parsons, Canzona, Blair & Warren, Red Bank, attorneys; William G. Bassler, Red Bank, on the brief).

John W. O'Mara, Eatontown, for respondent (Saling, Boglioli & Moore, Eatontown, attorneys).

Before Judges GOLDMANN, KOLOVSKY and CARTON.

The opinion of the court was delivered by

CARTON, J.A.D.

Plaintiff Farmingdale Realty Co. appeals from a judgment dismissing its complaint against defendant Borough of Farmingdale, seeking a tax refund under N.J.S.A. 54:4--54 because of alleged duplicate assessments on certain buildings and improvements for the years 1962, 1963 and 1964. The land assessment is not in question.

In 1962 the improvements were assessed at $187,000. In 1963 and 1964 they were assessed at $215,000. The parties have stipulated that a revaluation firm, employed by defendant Borough in 1962, valued the improvements on plaintiff's property at $144,021, and that the assessor, in computing the assessments, included not only the value of a residence owned and occupied by plaintiff's president, but also duplicated the value of some of the buildings. If these improvements had been assessed on the basis of the valuations fixed by the revaluation firm, the assessments would have been $42,979 less in 1962 and $71,187 less in the years 1963 and 1964. No appeals were taken from these annual assessments.

The parties have also stipulated that these events are reflected only in office records described as 'Assessor's Cards' originally prepared by the revaluation company in conjunction with the revaluation. The annual tax duplicate contains a single entry for land and another single entry for buildings and improvements which reflect only 'a total valuation for land and total valuation for buildings without distinction as to a particular building or how the figures were arrived at.'

This situation came to light when plaintiff appealed to the county tax board in 1965 from the $215,000 assessment for that year on improvements. The result was a settlement, confirmed by judgment of the tax board, reciting that the property was assessed in excess of its true value and reducing the value of the buildings to $140,000.

In January 1966 plaintiff filed a petition with the county tax board under N.J.S.A. 54:4--54, seeking to compel defendant to refund the excessive tax payments made following these assessments. N.J.S.A. 54:4--54 provides, in pertinent part:

'Where by mistake property real or personal has been twice entered and assessed on the tax duplicate, the governing body of the taxing district or county board of taxation may order and cause the tax record to be corrected and if the tax has been twice paid the governing body of the taxing district shall refund the excessive payment without interest. * * *'

Plaintiff also applied to the borough for a refund. The borough refused, and the tax board, in turn, refused to order it to do so. Plaintiff did not appeal to the State Division of Tax Appeals. Instead, it instituted this Law Division action, requesting damages for the amount of the taxes overpaid, totalling $5,644.43 with interest.

The trial judge found that relief should be denied to plaintiff taxpayer because it had not established that the property had been 'twice entered and assessed on the tax duplicate.' He noted that (as pointed out above) the tax duplicate itself contained only a single figure for the assessment of land and another one for the assessment of buildings and improvements, without any breakdown for the individual items comprising that figure. The fact that there existed a duplication of the value of certain buildings could therefore be ascertained only by a review of the separate valuations for the individual buildings and improvements appearing on the source records, the assessment cards, located in the assessor's office.

Admittedly, plaintiff's property had not been 'twice entered and assessed on the tax duplicate' for the years in question. Nonetheless, plaintiff argues that this fact is immaterial. The thesis advanced is that there is no substantial difference between an assessor twice evaluating the same property and placing a total figure which is mathematically incorrect on the tax duplicate, and, on the other hand, listing each property twice on the tax duplicate. It urges that in both instances the property is twice assessed.

This argument disregards entirely the plain language of the statutory provision on which plaintiff's claim to relief is grounded.

Considered alone, and without regard to the remainder of the Tax Act, the language of N.J.S.A. 54:4--54, upon which plaintiff relies, suggests that it was designed to create a special remedy to cover a situation where there is a patent error in the taxing process; that is, one that is readily ascertainable by a simple inspection of the tax duplicate. This interpretation is confirmed by reference to the remainder of that section which specifies a number of different types of mistakes and designates the agency authorized to correct them, as well as the manner and time within which this must be done. For example, it provides for the correction of a mistake where an assessment intended for one parcel had been placed upon another one, and for a situation where one person has mistakenly paid the tax on the property of another, supposing it to be his own. Further, it would seem that even though this provision is designed to permit correction of certain mistakes, its use is limited to the kind of mistakes specified and to relief being granted in the manner provided in the statute. An error which cannot be detected from an inspection of the duplicate itself does not seem to fall within the category of mistakes for which the remedy was provided.

The tax duplicate, by statutory definition, is a true copy of the assessor's assessment list. N.J.S.A. 54:4--37. Plaintiff's contention fails to give proper weight to the very important part the tax duplicate plays in the statutory scheme for tax administration. Let us briefly examine the pertinent provisions of that scheme.

The Tax Act delineates, in considerable detail, the specific functions to be performed by the assessor and sets an exact time schedule for their completion. Thus, N.J.S.A. 54:4--23 directs the assessor to ascertain the names of the owners of all real property in the taxing district, and, after examination and inquiry, to 'determine the full and fair...

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3 cases
  • Farmingdale Realty Co. v. Borough of Farmingdale
    • United States
    • New Jersey Supreme Court
    • 16 Diciembre 1969
    ...assessor and a member of the borough's governing body. Judgment for the defendant resulted. The Appellate Division affirmed. 104 N.J.Super. 314, 250 A.2d 29 (1969). We granted certification. 53 N.J. 580, 252 A.2d 156 The trial judge did not make the findings of fact in his oral opinion at t......
  • Leake v. Bullock
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court — Appellate Division
    • 31 Enero 1969
  • Farmingdale Realty Co. v. Borough of Farmingdale
    • United States
    • New Jersey Supreme Court
    • 26 Marzo 1969
    ...Court of New Jersey. March 26, 1969. On petition for certification to Appellate Division, Superior Court. See same case below: 104 N.J.Super. 314, 250 A.2d 29. Parsons, Canzona, Blair & Warren and William G. Bassler, Red Bank, for Saling, Boglioli & Moore and John W. O'Mara, Eatontown, for ......

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