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Prohm v. Non-high School Dist. No. 216

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 22, 1955.

PAULINE PROHM, APPELLANT,

v.

NON-HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 216 ET AL., APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JULIUS H. MINER, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE DAVIS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff, a resident and landowner of Stickney Township, Cook County, brought a class action in the circuit court of Cook County to enjoin the county clerk of said county from extending the tax levy provided for in the refunding bond resolution in question; to enjoin the board of education of Non-High School District No. 216, Cook County, Illinois, from taking any step or steps in the execution of said bond resolution, or issuing refunding bonds thereunder; to declare unconstitutional and invalid H.B. 212, adopted April 19, 1955, (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1955, chap. 122, pars. 11-13.1 and 11-13.2) and to declare void the refunding bond resolution of said Non-High School District and the refunding bonds sought to be issued thereunder.

The issues in the case were joined by the complaint, answers, and reply. The parties stipulated that the cause be submitted to the court for decision on the material facts set forth and admitted in the pleadings. On July 18, 1955, the court entered an order referring the cause to Albert E. Jenner, Jr., as special commissioner, for report of his conclusions of fact and law. The commissioner filed a detailed report, with findings of fact and conclusions of law, and recommended that the complaint be dismissed for want of equity. The plaintiff filed objections to the report of the commissioner, which were overruled. The objections were allowed to stand before the court as exceptions, and the court, after hearing, entered a decree overruling the exceptions, approving the report of the commissioner and dismissing the complaint for want of equity.

The plaintiff appealed from the decree, contending that the court erred in: (1) dismissing the complaint for want of equity; (2) not declaring that section 11-13.1 of the School Code is unconstitutional and void and contravenes section 9 of article IX of the Illinois constitution in that it (a) attempts to permit the levy of a tax against property in detached territory by corporate authorities of another district; (b) attempts to permit the levy of a tax for a non-corporate purpose; (c) attempts to permit the levy of a tax against property and citizens located outside the boundaries and jurisdiction of the corporate authorities levying the tax, which citizens have no voice and are without the power to participate in the affairs of the district (3) not declaring that the resolution of the board of education of Non-High School District No. 216, providing for the refunding of bonds and levying a tax, is unconstitutional and void as to property and persons in detached territory including that of plaintiff, the resolution being based on said section 11-13.1; (4) not enjoining the county clerk from extending the tax levy provided for in said resolution; (5) not enjoining the board of education from taking any steps in connection with the refunding operation under said resolution.

The constitutionality of section 11-13.1 of the School Code was the primary inquiry in the trial court and the cause was determined on that issue. A debatable constitutional question was raised, and therefore we assume jurisdiction. Richter v. City of Mt. Carroll, 398 Ill. 473; Jenisek v. Riggs, 381 Ill. 290.

The facts in this case are not in dispute. The land owned by the plaintiff, being the territory in which she resides, was detached from Non-High School District No. 216, on September 2, 1954, and since said date has remained outside the boundaries of that district.

At the time of the detachment, the territory within the boundaries of said Non-High School District, including the said property of the plaintiff, was subject to taxation to pay the principal due upon certain outstanding legal bonds, both funding and refunding, of said district in the aggregate sum of $2,448,000, and interest thereon.

The district had, as necessity required, validly issued funding bonds, some of which had been refunded, and the above balance of principal was due on said bonds on the date the territory, in which plaintiff's realty was located, was detached. Tax levies were being made for the payment of principal and interest on each of the bond issues by the county clerk of Cook County, pursuant to the terms and provisions of the certified copies of bond resolutions of said district, on file in his office.

On April 26, 1955, the board of education of Non-High School District No. 216 refunded these outstanding bonds by the adoption of a refunding bond and tax levy resolution which provided for the issuance of $2,448,000 refunding bonds and the levy of taxes to pay principal and interest thereon. Section 3 of that resolution provided in part: "That in order to provide for the collection of a direct annual tax sufficient to pay the interest on such [refunding] bonds as it falls due and also to pay and discharge the principal thereof at maturity, there be and there is hereby levied upon all the taxable property included within said non-high school district [No. 216 of Cook County, Illinois] as of the date of the bonds refunded by the issuance of Refunding Bonds authorized by this resolution, in each year while any of said Refunding Bonds are outstanding, a direct annual tax sufficient for that purpose, * * *." A certified copy of this resolution was properly filed with the county clerk of Cook County by the board of education of said Non-High School District, and the county clerk pursuant to the provisions of section 11-13.1 of the School Code, proposed to extend against the property of the plaintiff the taxes levied by said resolution.

It is agreed by the parties to this litigation that all proceedings and steps provided and required by statute to effect the issuance of these refunding bonds and to perfect said tax levy have been duly taken.

The refunding bond resolution refunds bonds in the sum of $2,448,000 and provides for the same rate of interest on the same principal amount of each of the respective issues refunded. There is no increase in the interest rate by virtue of the refunding. The only changes are that the maturities are made more even. The ultimate maturity of all of said refunding bonds does not extend beyond the approximate date of the latest maturity of the bonds refunded and the tax levies to pay the refunding bonds are spread evenly over the same number of years.

Since 1945, the legislature of the State of Illinois has adopted a series of acts to bring about the gradual elimination of non-high school districts and to otherwise provide for a more efficient system of schools. (People ex rel. High School Dist. v. Hupe, 2 Ill.2d 434.) As a result of this legislative program, there has been a gradual reduction in the size of the respective non-high school districts throughout the State and this was particularly true of Non-High School District No. 216, as is evidenced by a reduction in the assessed valuation of such property from $164,764,000 in 1946 to $12,674,533 in 1954.

Pursuant to the provisions of an act of June 27, 1951, (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1951, chap. 122, par. 11-18.1,) as amended by the acts of 1953, (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1953, chap. 122, pars. 11-18.1 and 11-18.2,) most remaining non-high school districts are to be eliminated by July 1, 1956, and under the provisions of said act as amended in 1955 such date was extended to July 1, 1958, for counties having a population of 500,000 or more.

On April 19, 1955, the legislature adopted H.B. 212 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1955, chap. 122, pars. 11-13.1 and ...


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