Hangley Aronchick shareholders John Summers and Matthew Hamermesh and associate Gianni Mascioli prevailed on behalf of client Alexander Street LLC in a closely-watched challenge to Lower Merion School District’s practice of appealing the tax assessments of large commercial properties.

The Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County ruled in a 31-page decision that the school district discriminated against commercial building owners by disproportionately appealing the tax assessments of commercial properties, compared to those of single-family homes. The court’s ruling found the so-called reverse assessment appeals were a clear violation of the Uniformity Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which requires that all classes of property be treated equally for tax purposes.

The decision is a follow-up in ways to Summers and Hamermesh’s 2017 success before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in the precedent-setting case Valley Forge Towers Apartments v. Upper Merion Area School District.  That unanimous decision – reversing decades of Commonwealth Court decisions — held that the Uniformity Clause prohibits taxing entities from engaging in reverse appeals that discriminate some categories of property as opposed to others.

The Court of Common Pleas cited the Supreme Court’s Valley Forge Towers opinion extensively in ruling for Alexander Street. The case, which was covered by The Philadelphia Inquirer, is expected to be a wake up call to school districts across the Commonwealth.

Read a copy of the court’s decision here.