Bucks Judge Orders Tullytown Tax Refund Judge David Heckler Said '94 Rebates Were Unfair To Property Owners Who Paid More Than $1,000 In Taxes.

Posted: September 01, 1998

TULLYTOWN — A Bucks County judge yesterday ruled that an annual tax rebate given to property owners for putting up with a garbage dump here was distributed unfairly in 1994. He ordered the borough to refund tax bills of 20 property owners for that year.

Since 1988, Tullytown has been returning to taxpayers some of the roughly $3 million the borough annually receives from Waste Management Inc. for allowing the company to operate a landfill here.

After the borough paid a $1,000 rebate to payers of property taxes in 1994, Creek Village Apartments filed suit against the borough, contending that the bonus was unfair to property owners who paid more than $1,000 in taxes, because they received the same rebate as those with tax bills under $1,000.

Of the 731 taxed properties in the borough in 1994, only 25 paid more than $1,000 in real estate taxes. Owners of those properties received the same refund as those who paid taxes of $1,000 or less. Nineteen property owners who paid over $1,000 later joined Creek Village in the lawsuit.

Yesterday, Bucks County Court Judge David Heckler agreed with Creek Village's argument. In an 18-page decision, he ruled that the borough violated the state constitution in its distribution of refunds in 1994.

Each member of the lawsuit has ``been subject to unequal application of the tax imposed by Tullytown,'' Heckler wrote. In essence, Heckler wrote, the borough had refunded ``100 percent of the real estate taxes . . . to all taxpayers of Tullytown with the sole exception of the plaintiffs.''

The total amount the borough would have to pay under the ruling was unclear yesterday. Creek Village would be refunded $9,764 - the total amount of taxes it paid that year, minus the $1,000 rebate it received from the borough.

``I am not sure at this time what the total refund would be,'' said Richard Kempes, attorney for the 20 property owners. ``But most of [the plaintiffs] wouldn't receive much more than what Creek Village is entitled to.''

Robert Baldi, attorney for Tullytown, said yesterday that he had not yet discussed the ruling with borough officials. Baldi said he would recommend that the borough appeal the decision.

The lawsuit is the fifth tax-rebate-related suit against the borough by Creek Village. In 1995, the borough settled two suits with the apartment owner for $20,000 before the suits became certified as class actions. Two other class-action suits involving rebates from 1995 and 1996 are pending in court, Kempes said.

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