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Peo. Ex Rel. Rose v. N.y.c.r.r. Co.

OPINION FILED MAY 19, 1961.

THE PEOPLE EX REL. GENE H. ROSE, COUNTY COLLECTOR, APPELLANT AND CROSS APPELLEE,

v.

THE NEW YORK CENTRAL RAILROAD COMPANY, APPELLEE AND CROSS APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the County Court of Champaign County; the Hon. J.H. BENJAMIN, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE DAILY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is an appeal by the county treasurer and ex officio collector of Champaign County, and a cross appeal by the New York Central Railroad Company, which present an issue as to the maximum legal tax rates extendable in 1958 for six different funds in Champaign County. The revenue is involved, giving us jurisdiction of the direct appeal, and we have granted leave to the Taxpayers' Federation of Illinois to file a brief as amicus curiae.

Involved in the appeal by the collector are the maximum rates permissible in 1958 for the county general corporate fund, the county highway fund and the town of Urbana road and bridge fund. There is no dispute as to the facts, which have been stipulated, and the specific question, one of statutory construction, is whether the basic statutory rates authorized for each of these funds were, in 1958, subject to reduction or scaling down under what has been commonly referred to as the "formula" provision of section 162a of the Revenue Act. (See: Ill. Rev. Stat. 1945, 1947, 1949, chap. 120, par. 643a.) In each instance the county clerk extended rates without regard to the provisions of the Revenue Act but, upon objection by the railroad, hereinafter referred to as defendant, the county court held the formula rate was the maximum legal rate that could be extended and sustained defendant's objections that the rates for these funds were excessive.

The collector prosecutes this appeal, contending in substance that the formula provision expired and was repealed prior to 1958, or, in the alternative, that section 162b of the Revenue Act, as amended in 1957, (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1957, chap. 120, par. 643b,) is an unconstitutional attempt to revive a repealed statute by its title, that the effect of sections 162a and 162b is to violate the constitutional provision which prohibits local or special laws, and that the same two sections have created such confusion in tax rate limits that this court should find them void for such reason.

The need under which section 162a was first enacted, its purpose and its constitutionality were all fully considered and expressed by this court in Anderson v. City of Park Ridge, 396 Ill. 235. What was said there need not be repeated here except to say, generally, that section 162a was intended to avoid unequal and excessive tax increases following the establishment of means to acquire uniformity in assessments, (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1945, chap. 120, par. 627,) and was likewise intended to be a temporary measure to allow local taxing units, or the taxpayers, to adjust their local taxing rate limits by referendum if they wished, prior to the end of the temporary period. As section 162a was originally enacted in 1945, this temporary period was fixed as beginning on January 1, 1946, and as ending on December 31, 1950. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1945, chap. 120, par. 643a.) Insofar as this proceeding is concerned, however, we need concern ourselves with the development of section 162a, and its companion section 162b, from 1947 forward.

In 1947, section 162a was amended to provide for a slightly different formula provision for tax rate limitations and to extend the end limit of the temporary period to December 31, 1952. Generally, the new formula provided for a rate limit obtained by the product of the assessed valuation of the particular taxing district for 1945, multiplied by the maximum tax rate for that fund, divided by the 1946 full assessed valuation, then multiplied by 105%. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1947, chap. 120, par. 643a.) When 1951 was reached, section 162a was again amended to provide that the formula limitations would expire on December 31, 1952, as to school districts having less than 500,000 inhabitants, and on December 31, 1953, as to the maximum rates for all other tax districts "unless modified by the provisions of Section 162b of this Act, or, unless changed by referendum" as provided in section 162a. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1951, chap. 120, par. 643a.

In the same year, 1951, section 162b was added to the Revenue Act. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1951, chap. 120, par. 643b.) In the opening paragraph of the section the legislature spelled out its intent and purpose, saying: "The General Assembly hereby declares its intention that the maximum tax rate limitation for each fund of each taxing district in this State shall be established locally by the corporate authorities or by the voters of the taxing district in the manner and subject to the restrictions of this Section 162b, which is intended to provide the procedure for an orderly change from maximum tax rate limits imposed by the General Assembly to maximum tax rate limits established locally on the basis of local needs." Thereafter, subsection (1) exempted from the section taxing districts having a population of more than 500,000 inhabitants and certain school and other districts.

To effect the legislative purpose, the remaining subsections of section 162b then outlined the procedure to be followed by all districts affected in establishing, either by action or inaction prior to December 31, 1951, (with some exceptions,) maximum tax rate limits for each tax fund. Each taxing district was required to pass an ordinance or resolution, prior to December 31, 1951, establishing the maximum permissible tax rate limitation that could thereafter be extended for each of its funds subject to section 162b. If the district passed an ordinance or a resolution fixing the rate limit for a fund at a rate that was no greater than the tax rate limit in effect for such fund when the resolution or ordinance was adopted, such rate went into effect immediately without referendum. If, however, the rate adopted was greater than the maximum rate limit in effect on the date of the resolution or ordinance, it was necessary, with the exception of some funds not important here, to have a referendum approving the increase.

Providing against the contingency that some taxing districts might not adopt resolutions or ordinances one way or the other, the legislature then fixed the maximum tax rates for such funds as follows in subsection (8): "If the corporate authorities of a taxing district fail to adopt the ordinance or resolution for the establishment of a maximum tax rate limit for any fund subject to this Section 162b at the time and in the manner prescribed in this Section 162b, then the maximum tax rate for such fund shall continue to be the maximum tax rate in effect for that fund on December 31, 1951, unless and until changed as provided in subsection (3) of Section 162a of `The Revenue Act of 1939,' approved May 17, 1939, as amended."

By subsection (9) of section 162b, which is of particular importance here, the legislature then designated the method of determining rate limits in effect, either on December 31, 1951, or on the date the resolution or ordinance was passed, whichever the case might be, stating it would be one of the following: (1) The tax rate limit for the fund of the taxing district authorized by any referendum held after January 1, 1946; (2) the tax rate limit authorized by the statute applicable to that fund if the fund was created after January 1, 1946; or (3) if the fund was in existence January 1, 1946, and an increase in the rate was not authorized by referendum held subsequent thereto, then the rate computed as provided by section 162a, as amended in 1947.

We digress for the moment to note that although the funds involved in this case were in existence on January 1, 1946, there have been no referenda for an increase in rates since that time, and neither did the taxing authorities adopt resolutions or ordinances as contemplated by section 162b. Since the taxing authorities failed to take any action prior to December 31, 1951, the language of the statute makes it clear that, as of that date at least, the maximum tax rate limit for the funds in question was the statutory rate as reduced by the formula prescribed in section 162a as it was amended in 1947. But we are concerned here with 1958 taxes and with the effect of amendments to sections 162a and 162b subsequent to 1951.

Legislation enacted in 1953 did not materially alter either section, and it is to be recalled that the formula provision of section 162a, by virtue of the amendment in 1951, was to expire by its own terms on December 31, 1953. However, in 1955, section 162a was amended to delete the formula for scaling down tax rate limits, but the provisions for increasing or lowering rate limitations by referendum were continued. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1955, chap. 120, par. 643a.) At the same time section 162b was changed in form, to eliminate subsections, and was amended in pertinent part to provide: "The maximum permissible tax rate for each fund of each taxing district subject to this Section shall be the maximum rate applicable on the effective date of this 1955 amendatory Act until changed under the provisions of subsection (3) of Section 162a of this Act. * * *.

"In computing the tax rate limit in effect for a fund as of the date of the adoption of the ordinances or resolutions as formerly provided by this Section, or as of December 31, 1951, as the case may be, such tax rate limits shall be determined as follows: the tax rate limit for the fund of the taxing district authorized by any referendum held after January 1, 1946; the tax rate limit authorized by the statute applicable to that fund if the fund was created after January 1, 1946; or, if the fund was in existence January 1, 1946 and an increase in the rate was not authorized by referendum held subsequent ...


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