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Yuma County v. Arizona Edison Co.

Supreme Court of Arizona

May 19, 1947

YUMA COUNTY et al.
v.
ARIZONA EDISON CO

Appeal from Superior Court, Yuma County; Henry C. Kelly, Judge.

Affirmed.

John L. Sullivan, Atty. Gen., Earl Anderson, Asst. Atty. Gen., H. H. Baker, Yuma County Attorney, of Yuma, for appellants.

Snell, Strouss & Wilmer, of Phoenix, for appellee.

Udall, Justice. Stanford, C. J., and LaPrade, J., concurring.

OPINION

Udall, Justice.

Page 869

[65 Ariz. 333] This is an appeal from a judgment voiding for want of jurisdiction an order of the State Board of Equalization increasing the valuation, for taxation purposes, of the electric, gas and water plants of the Arizona Edison Company in Yuma County. For convenience' sake this taxpayer, plaintiff in the court below, will be referred to as the Company, and the State Board of Equalization, one of the defendants in the lower court and an appellant here, as the Equalization Board.

A resume of the facts will make more understandable the legal problems involved. For the year 1943 the Yuma [65 Ariz. 334] County Assessor placed on its tax rolls three utilities belonging to the Company, as follows, viz.:

Electric plant and distribution

system

$ 215,130

Gas holders, mains and services

$ 95,140

Water plant, mains, services and

meters

$ 160,150

These items total $ 470,420. The County Board of Equalization made no changes in this assessment. By statute, Sec. 73-108, A.C.A.1939, the State Tax Commission is created a State Board of Equalization and is required to meet on the first Monday in August, and it must complete its functions as an equalization board by the second Monday in August as upon the latter date, after having determined the final valuations for the state and each county thereof, it sets the state tax rate for the ensuing year (Sec. 73-109). On Monday, August 2, 1943, this Board met for the purpose of equalizing the valuation and assessment of all property throughout the State of Arizona. On Tuesday August 3d, the Board proposed a number of increases including a net raise of $ 1,035,000 on utility properties owned by the Arizona Edison Company and situated in four different counties in Arizona. The Company's three Yuma County utilities were, as a part of this total, given a proposed blanket raise of $ 200,000 by increasing their assessed valuation from $ 470,420 to $ 670,420. A telegram dated August 3, 1943, advising in detail as to all the proposed increases was sent to the Company at its home office in Douglas, Arizona, and was received by them the following morning. On August 4th, the Equalization Board sent a letter of the same tenor by registered mail and similarly addressed, which was received by the Company in Douglas at 8:30 a. m. on Friday. Both the telegram and the letter directed the Company to show cause on that same Friday, August 6th, at 1:30 p. m., why such proposed increases should not be sustained. At the appointed hour, Philip B. Shaw, President of the Company, together with attorneys, made a special appearance before the Equalization Board protesting the Board's jurisdiction to proceed with a hearing on such short notice. They also filed a written protest to the proposed increases. No evidence was submitted and, as a matter of fact, the entire proceedings cover but two pages of the reporter's transcript. On August 7, 1943, the Equalization Board by appropriate resolution denied the protest of the Company and sustained all of its proposed increases. The Board also directed that the increases be transmitted to the respective boards of supervisors with instructions to change the tax rolls in accordance therewith. No appeal was taken by the Company from this order of the Equalization Board increasing the assessed valuations of the Company's properties, though the new section 73-110 now expressly gives an aggrieved taxpayer this right.

[65 Ariz. 335] The Company, on November 1, 1943, paid under written protest the first installment (one half) of the taxes levied against all of its properties in Yuma County. Then, on November 9, 1943, it brought the instant suit, doubtless under the provisions of Sec. 73-841, asking that the order of the Equalization Board made August 7, 1943, increasing the assessed valuations of its properties, be adjudged and decreed invalid, void and of no effect. Further, it prayed for judgment against the defendants Yuma County and its Treasurer for $ 2,681.49, with interest, being the excess amount the

Page 870

Company had been required to pay by reason of the $ 200,000 increased ...


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