Can a City Enact An Ordinance to Withold Licenses and Permits As a Means to Collect Real Estate Taxes and Municipal Debt ?
In Trigona v. Lender, 926 A.2d 1226 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2007), the City of Jeanette adopted an ordinance prohibiting the issuance of licenses and permits pertaining to real property in Jeanette if the applicant owes real estate taxes or municipal debt.
A corporation filed an action in the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County alleging, inter alia, that the ordinance was a tax collection device not authorized by the Third Class City Code, and seeking a declaration that the ordinance exceeded Jeanette's statutory authority.
The court found that the intent of the ordinance was to sanction persons delinquent in the payment of taxes and, as a result, served as a tax collection device.
The court also found that the Third Class City Code did not authorize the enactment of the ordinance.
As a result, the court determined that the ordinance was invalid.
On appeal to this Court, Jeanette maintained that the ordinance was a valid exercise of its police power, and that it possessed inherent rights under the Third Class County Code, the Local Tax Enabling Act, and the statute commonly known as the Municipal Claims and Tax Liens Act (Municipal Claims Act), to withhold licenses and permits as a means of collecting real estate taxes and municipal debt.
As a result, this Court concluded that Jeanette lacked the express, implied and necessary power to enact the ordinance to withhold licenses and permits as a means of collecting real estate taxes and municipal debt. Id.