Appeal by defendants from the Circuit Court of Cook county;
the Hon. E.J. SCHNACKENBERG, Judge, presiding. Heard in the
second division of this court for the first district at the
October term, 1951. Decree reversed and cause remanded with
directions. Opinion filed January 18, 1952. Rehearing denied
February 4, 1952. Released for publication February 5, 1952.
MR. JUSTICE ROBSON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.
Rehearing denied February 4, 1952
This is an appeal from a decree rendered by the circuit court of Cook county upon findings in a class suit for a declaratory judgment and other relief.
The plaintiffs (appellees) are representative taxpayers and voters of the Northfield Township High School District No. 225 of Cook county. The defendants (appellants) are the District, its Board of Education and its Secretary. The Board of Education is herein referred to as Defendant-Board.
The case presents a controversy over the selection of a school site and the construction of a building thereon in the District. Two sites had been approved by the voters at separate elections. The site first approved, hereinafter referred to as the June site, and the second as the Oldfield site. Plaintiffs seek to require the Defendant-Board to build its first high school on the June site. Intervenor-defendants (appellants) are representative voters and taxpayers who seek to require Defendant-Board to build its first high school on the Oldfield site.
The case was tried in the first instance on a stipulation of facts. After the trial court rendered an opinion favoring the June site, a supplementary answer was filed by the Defendant-Board and testimony was introduced in support thereof to the effect that not all of that site could be voluntarily acquired for $125,000, the price specified on the ballot at the election at which the June site was approved.
The facts of the case were stipulated to by the respective parties and are substantially as follows: The Northfield Township High School District No. 225 was organized April 12, 1947. It was the subject of litigation which was terminated by the decision in People ex rel. Boyington et al. v. Northfield Township High School District No. 225, 402 Ill. 435. Prior to May 25, 1949, the then members of Defendant-Board conducted a study of school sites, which included the cost of land and development thereof, operating costs, availability to sewer and water facilities, availability to transportation facilities and proximity to the majority of the school population. A Citizens' Advisory Committee, consisting of delegates representing various organizations in the community, cooperated with the defendants in holding meetings for the purpose of deciding upon a location for the high school. As a result of this investigation and of these meetings Defendant-Board on May 25, 1949, adopted a resolution calling an election to be held in the District on June 18, 1949, for the purpose of submitting to the voters of the District a site located at the northwest corner of Sunset Ridge road and Lake avenue, hereinafter referred to as the June site for the proposed new high school. The estimated cost of purchasing this site was $125,000, which the resolution proposed be financed by a bond issue for such amount.
On June 18 an election was held at which the June site was submitted to the voters for their approval. This site was the only site described on the ballot as submitted but the ballot contained an appropriate blank space for the voter to write in any other description as required by statute. The June site failed to receive a majority of those voting at the election but carried over write-ins by 339 to 19. At the same election, the voters approved by a vote of 376 to 363 a proposition that the Board of Education be authorized to purchase a schoolhouse site for the District. At the same election the voters by a vote of 373 to 367 voted against a proposition authorizing the Board of Education to issue bonds of the school district in the amount of $125,000 to purchase a schoolhouse site.
A second election was held in the District on July 16, 1949, at which the voters by a vote of 913 to 741 voted against authorizing the Board of Education to issue bonds in the amount of $125,000 to purchase a schoolhouse site. Prior to this election, individual defendants announced that any such second rejection of this bond issue would be interpreted by Defendant-Board as a repudiation by the voters of the June site.
After the July election defendants retained certain educational experts and engineers to study the comparative desirability of some fifteen proposed locations for the high school, including the June site. These experts made a report and recommended a 40-acre portion of the June site as the best available schoolhouse location in the District on the basis of initial costs of land, of sewage and water facilities, debt service, pupil transportation costs and other factors which it is not necessary to mention in detail. The experts also approved two other sites; one of which rated third in their choice, was a 70-acre track known as the Oldfield site.
On October 13, 1949, pursuant to the necessary petitions, the Defendant-Board called an election to be held on October 29, 1949, according to a resolution which stated that it was necessary for the District to provide a high school for the education of children in said District; that the District was paying tuition to other school districts and had been renting quarters in the district which were not adequate to provide for the students; that it was estimated that the cost of purchasing a site would be $80,000 and the estimated cost of erecting a schoolhouse would be $1,670,000, or a total of $1,750,000; and that the necessary petitions had been filed for the purpose of submitting five sites at an election to be called by the Board. Pursuant to the resolution a notice of election was given and a ballot submitted to the voters at the election for voting on the following propositions: (1) To select a schoolhouse site. (Five sites were submitted, one of which was a 40-acre portion of the June site and another the 70-acre Oldfield site.) (2) To purchase a schoolhouse site. (3) To build a schoolhouse. (4) To issue bonds in the total sum of $1,750,000 for the following purposes: (a) For the purchase of a schoolhouse site at $80,000; (b) for building the schoolhouse on the site selected and purchased for said high school district $1,670,000.
At the election the 40-acre portion of the June site received the largest number of votes 1,269, and the 70-acre Oldfield site received the second largest number of votes 1,159, but neither received a majority of all votes cast on the proposition. The remaining propositions were all approved by the voters.
On November 19, 1949, a supplementary election was held requiring a choice between the portion of the June site voted on at the October 29, 1949, election and the Oldfield site. At this election a majority of those voting on the proposition voted in favor of the Oldfield site, 1,552 to 1,216. Subsequent to the November 19, 1949 election, the Defendant-Board purchased the Oldfield site for $52,500 using general funds of the school district. When plaintiffs filed their complaint on August 17, 1950, the Defendant-Board was preparing to construct a schoolhouse on the Oldfield site.
From the time of the election in June of 1949, defendants had an option to purchase the entire June site at a price of $1,900 per acre, which option has never been exercised and expired on January 15, 1950. Defendants have never purchased nor made any effort to purchase any portion of the June site. Neither have defendants at any time since the June 1949, election instituted any proceedings for the declared purpose of abandoning said schoolhouse site or ...