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People ex rel. New York Tel. Co. v. Graves

Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division

July 8, 1954

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK ex rel. NEW YORK TELEPHONE COMPANY, Appellant,
v.
MARK GRAVES et al., Constituting the State Tax Commission, Respondents, and CITY OF NEW YORK, Intervener, Respondent.

Page 497

APPEALS from two orders of the Supreme Court entered August 13, 1952, in Albany County upon decisions of a Referee (ARTHUR H. SCHWARTZ, Ref.), which confirmed the valuations made by the State Tax Commission of the special franchises within New York City of the New York Telephone Company for the six months' period from January 1, 1939, to June 30, 1939, and for the annual period from July 1, 1939, to June 30, 1940.

COUNSEL

Frank A. Fritz, Ralph W. Brown, Eric B. Nelson and John M. Farrell for appellant.

Nathaniel L. Goldstein, Attorney-General (Edward J. Grogan, Jr., Wendell P. Brown and George A. Radz of counsel), for respondents.

Adrian P. Burke, Corporation Counsel (Timothy F. Cohan of counsel), for intervener-respondent.

BERGAN, J.

We deal with a point of statutory construction in almost pure form in an area substantially untouched by prior judicial exploration. The problem has two elements; but both relate to provisions of the Charter and Administrative Code of the City of New York. The Charter was adopted by a city referendum

Page 498

of 1936 and the code was enacted by chapter 929 of the Laws of 1937. Both became effective January 1, 1938.

One of the alterations introduced by these enactments was a change in the year used by the city for taxation and budget purposes. In place of the calendar year, a fiscal year from July 1st to June 30th was to be used. The Charter (§ 952) provided that the 'first fiscal year as established by section one hundred eleven shall commence on the first day of July, nineteen hundred thirty-nine'.

For the purpose of adapting the real property assessment rolls to this change in the tax year it became necessary as a practical matter to do one of three things; either continue the 1938 assessment rolls for the first six months of 1939; or make a separate six-month assessment between the end of the last calendar year system, December 31, 1938, and the beginning of the new one on July 1, 1939; or pick up the six-month period with the beginning of the new fiscal year and have the first assessment then made operate retroactively for the six-month period.

The plan reflected in the Charter and the code was a combination of the first two, designed to minimize the task of the assessors. The assessments made for 1938 were to continue during the first six months of 1939 unless the character or condition of the property (other than its value) changed; if the character or condition changed, it would be reflected in the tax roll applicable to the six-month period.

The statutory language to effectuate this policy is found in the Charter (§ 952, subd. d) and in the Code (§ J41-4.0). The Charter provision with reference to the six-month period is that 'The tax rate shall be fixed upon the assessed valuations as they appear upon the assessment-rolls delivered to the council in March, nineteen hundred thirty-eight.' The code provision is that except in the case of structures destroyed in whole or in part, or of alterations not completed before October 1, 1938, or 'a change' on that date 'of the taxable character or status of real estate' the section does not authorize 'the revaluation of any taxable real estate for taxation purposes during the six months' fiscal period'. A 'mere change' in value is not to be deemed such a change.

That the six-month period was to be treated as a separate unit for the purpose of assessments on real estate in the city is, therefore, perfectly clear, not only from the authorization to the city assessing authorities to reflect certain kinds of changes ...


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