Appeal from the Circuit Court of Whiteside county; the Hon.
DAN H. McNEAL, Judge, presiding in cause No. 11,076; the Hon.
A.J. SCHEINEMAN, Judge, presiding, in cause No. 11,077. Cause No.
11,076 reversed with directions; Cause No. 11,077 affirmed.
JUSTICE SOLFISBURG DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.
Both of these cases are actions under the Administration Review Act (S.H.A. Ch. 110, Sec. 264 et seq.) for review of decisions of the County Board of School Trustees of Whiteside county and the resulting decisions on appeal to the Circuit Court of that county. Pursuant to the provisions of Article 4B of the School Code (S.H.A. Ch. 122, Sec. 4B-1 et seq.) petitions for detachment were filed with the School Trustees, who after timely notice and hearings detached two tracts of land from School District No. 82 in Whiteside county and annexed them to Community Consolidated School District No. 146 in Whiteside county. By stipulation of the parties, the cases were consolidated for purposes of argument. Because of the common questions of law involved, we have consolidated them for decision.
In case No. 11,076 the disconnection of 320 acres from School District 82 was reversed by one circuit judge of Whiteside county. In case No. 11,077 the disconnection of some 130 acres was affirmed by another circuit judge of Whiteside county. For the sake of convenience, we shall refer to the districts as District 82 and District 146.
The facts may be concisely stated. District 82 with an assessed valuation of some $693,000, a tax rate of .90 and a population of about 300 persons has a one-room school with one full time teacher and one part time music teacher, located in the small community of Spring Hill, Whiteside county. It has an average daily attendance of 29.09.
District 146 with an assessed valuation of $2,071,000 and a tax rate of 1.3214 has a new three-room school with three teachers. District 146 has a population of less than 2,000 persons and an average daily attendance of 55.10. Both districts are common school districts, maintaining grades one through eight, and furnish transportation. Both are duly accredited by the superintendent of public instruction. The disconnected territory, if the disconnections be allowed, would reduce the assessed valuation of District 82 by approximately seven per cent in one case and three per cent in the other. No witness, however, testified that such disconnection would disable District 82 from continuing its operation, nor so far as this record shows, force a reduction in any school facilities.
The first contention made by District 82 and the voters opposing disconnection of part of its present territories is that there was no evidence before the county board of school trustees of Whiteside county warranting a change of boundaries or that such a change was in any event against the manifest weight of the evidence. As a court of review our power and duty is to determine if the findings of the county board of school trustees are against the manifest weight of the evidence, Secau v. Illinois State Civil Service Commission, 408 Ill. 197, 203, Community Consol. School Dist. v. County Board, 7 Ill. App.2d 98, 103. The board's findings and conclusions on questions of fact are held to be prima facie true and correct (S.H.A. Ch. 110, Sec. 274).
On a consideration of the records in both cases as a whole, it is the conclusion of this court that the decision of the county board of school trustees of Whiteside county in each case was supported by adequate evidence, considering the welfare of the affected districts and the pupils of each as a whole, balancing the benefit to the annexing District 146 with the detriment to District 82 from which the disconnection was effected. The evidence, it is true, is somewhat conflicting, but the trustees saw the witnesses, are familiar with the local problems involved, can evaluate the numerous facts involved in the division of tax assets between the districts, and better understand the local conditions with which they must deal on a day to day basis, Community Unit School District v. County Board of School Trustees, 9 Ill. App.2d 116, 127.
The decisions of the trustees that the districts affected after detachment were compact and contiguous as required by Sec. 4B-3(c) of the School Code (S.H.A. Ch. 122, Sec. 4B-3(c)) are likewise supported by the evidence. Neither petition creates a "corridor" so as to form a district in the shape of a dumbbell. A mere irregularity of boundary lines results such as exists in hundreds of districts. The objectors concede that the districts need not be rectangular nor the boundaries straight lines. The proposed change would not affect the distance any pupil in District 82 needs to travel nor his route. The requirements of compactness and contiguity are fully met, People ex rel. Dixon v. Community School Dist., 2 Ill.2d 454, 463, People ex rel. Leighty v. Young, 301 Ill. 67, 71, People ex rel. Warren v. Drummet, 415 Ill. 411, 419.
In case No. 11,077 an additional objection is raised with respect to compactness and contiguity. The proposed change would detach an area on which no one resides from a farm of larger area and attach it to another district in order to cause a more distant farm home to be in an area contiguous to the district of attachment. Although we are cited no authority on this question and our research has revealed none, we see no logic in holding that occupance of land as such is material. The statute specifically provides for cases where there are no residents on any part of the area in question, Sec. 4B-1 of the School Code (S.H.A. Ch. 122, Sec. 4B-1). On the other hand, the statute wisely does not require that district boundaries must conform to the outlines of farms as they may exist by deed. Farm boundaries are subject to alteration at any time and have very little permanency about them. We do not regard this as a valid objection. We cannot say that the judgments of the trustees upon the records before us were either unsupported by evidence or that such decisions were against the manifest weight of the evidence.
It was for the trustees to decide whether the 10 per cent loss of assessed valuation resulting from both disconnections would unduly handicap District 82 in the performance of its educational functions. No witness testified that the disconnections would involve a cessation or reduction of any part of the operations of District 82. This case thus is factually different from the case of Trico Community Unit School Dist. No. 176 v. County Board of School Trustees of Randolph County, 8 Ill. App.2d 494. In that case it appeared that if the petition were granted, one school building would have to be closed and that a transportation problem as well as school overcrowding problem would result in the district to which attachment was sought.
The second and principal contention of District 82 involves the construction of Section 4B-3 of the School Code (S.H.A. Ch. 122, Sec. 4B-3).
Section 4B-3 reads as follows:
"No petition shall be granted under Sections 4B-1 or 4B-2 of this Act . . . (d) to create any school district with a population of less than 2,000 unless the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the county superintendent of schools of each county in which the proposed district will lie shall certify to the county board or boards of school trustees that the creation of such a new district will not interfere with the ultimate reorganization of the territory of such proposed district as a part of a district having a population of 2,000 or more.
"(e) If after the change of boundaries any district has less population or assessed valuation than required for the ...