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People Ex Rel. v. Olympic Corp.

OPINION FILED MARCH 22, 1950.

THE PEOPLE EX REL. LOUIS E. NELSON, COUNTY COLLECTOR, APPELLEE,

v.

OLYMPIC HOTEL BUILDING CORPORATION, APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the County Court of Cook County; the Hon. EDMUND K. JARECKI, Judge, presiding.

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE THOMPSON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Appellant, Olympic Hotel Building Corporation, filed objections to the Cook County collector's application for judgment and order of sale of real estate, delinquent for nonpayment of taxes for the year 1945. The county court overruled four separate and distinct objections and, from the judgment entered, an appeal has been taken directly to this court, the question of revenue being involved. The objections pertained to the corporate fund, bond and interest fund, highway fund and county employees annuity and benefit fund, as levied by the county of Cook for the year 1945, taxes being paid in full under protest.

It is stipulated that the county collector duly made a prima facie case; that the objector is the owner of the parcel of real estate described in the objections, which real estate is located within the boundaries of Cook County. The issues on appeal are restricted to the objections filed to each of the four separate levies.

The objection to the corporate fund levy goes to the amount in excess of the "pegged" limit of $8,500,000 set by act of the legislature through House Bill 618. (Laws of 1943, p. 558; Ill. Rev. Stat. 1943, chap. 34, par. 25.) Section 25 of that act, having to do with the powers of the county board, provides in part as follows:

"The County Boards of the several counties shall have power: * * *

"Fifth. To cause to be levied and collected annually taxes for county purposes, including all purposes for which money may be raised by the county by taxation * * * in counties having 500,000 or more inhabitants * * * for the year 1945 at the rate of twenty-five (25) cents or at a rate which when extended will produce an amount not to exceed $8,500,000 whichever may be the greater, * * *."

Prior to 1943 it had been the practice of the assessor of Cook County, over a long period of time, to debase the value of property to 37 per cent for assessment purposes. In November, 1943, he departed from the customary practice and assessed all property for taxation purposes on the basis of fair cash value or at 100 per cent of its value.

The objector contends that the act aforesaid prescribes one of two alternatives: (1) a rate limit of $.25 which must be read in the light of what it would produce under assessment practices that prevailed at the time the law was adopted, July 1943, or (2) a pegged levy of $8,500,000, whichever may be the greater.

The relator, on the other hand, takes the position that a rate may be used which when extended will produce an amount not to exceed the sum of $8,500,000, or that the rate of 25 cents may be used regardless of the assessed value or the amount it will produce, whichever method produces the greater amount. Under relator's position he may disregard the pegged amount and levy a much larger one at his option.

In determining the meaning of a grant of power to levy taxes, strict construction will be given to that which is relied upon to confer the power. People ex rel. McDonough v. Mills Novelty Co. 357 Ill. 285; People ex rel. Toman v. Chicago Heights Terminal Transfer Railroad Co. 375 Ill. 590; People ex rel. Dooley v. New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad Co. 371 Ill. 522.

A number of general rules of statutory construction are cited by both sides, which we have considered, but it will not be necessary to enumerate them here. A statute itself affords the best means of its exposition, and if the legislative intent can be ascertained from its provisions, that intent will prevail without resorting to other aids for construction. Burke v. Industrial Com. 368 Ill. 554; Coon v. Doss, 361 Ill. 515.

It is true there is no need of construction to ascertain the meaning of a statute where the language is clear and unambiguous and the intention of law-making power is manifestly apparent therefrom. (Bergeson v. Mullinix, 399 Ill. 470; People v. Lund, 382 Ill. 213.) However, it is a well-settled rule of statutory construction that, in construing statutes, the intention of the legislature will control and that the several provisions of the statute should be construed together in the light of the general purpose and object of the act, so as to give effect to the main intent and purpose of the legislature as therein expressed. (People ex rel. Hutchcraft v. Louisville and Nashville Railroad Co. 396 Ill. 502; People ex rel. Curren v. Schommer, 392 Ill. 17; People ex rel. Rice v. Wilson Oil Co. 364 Ill. 406; People ex rel. Harding v. Goldberg, 332 Ill. 346; State Public Utilities Com. v. Monarch Refrigerating Co. 267 Ill. 528; People v. Price, 257 Ill. 587.) The history of the legislation, considered with the objects to be accomplished and reading the entire section together, indicates its purpose. People ex rel. Hutchcraft v. Louisville and Nashville Railroad Co. 396 Ill. 502; Morris v. The Broadview, Inc. 385 Ill. 228.

Resort to explanatory legislative history has been declared not to be forbidden no matter how clear the words may first appear on superficial examination. (Harrison v. Northern Trust Co. 317 U.S. 476, 63 S.Ct. 361.) Historical facts and the significant circumstances leading up to the enactment of a statute may be noticed to show that a literal interpretation of the words used is not the intended meaning. (Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, 143 U.S. 457, 12 S.Ct. 511.) The elusiveness of legislative intent is not less than that of proximate cause and reasonable doubt, and the decisions of the many cases pertaining thereto present a ...


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