ILLINOIS APPELLATE COURT FIRST DISTRICT, FOURTH DIVISION.
APRIL 15, 1964.
SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 106, COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
COUNTY BOARD OF SCHOOL TRUSTEES OF COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. CHARLES
S. DOUGHERTY, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.
MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE ENGLISH DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.
Plaintiffs are elementary and high school districts in Cook County from which land was detached by order of the County Board of School Trustees, upon petition by property owners in the area. By orders of both the Cook and DuPage county school boards, the land was annexed to the adjoining school districts predominantly in DuPage County. The defendants in this litigation are both county school boards and the petitioning property owners. From a decree of the Circuit Court affirming the orders, this appeal has been taken by plaintiffs.
In reviewing administrative proceedings, it is not the duty of this court to substitute its judgment for that of the boards but to determine whether the orders are supported by the evidence or, contrariwise, are against the manifest weight of the evidence. School Dist. No. 79 v. School Trustees of Lake County, 4 Ill.2d 533, 541, 123 N.E.2d 475 (1955); Board of Education of Libertyville-Fremont School Dist. v. County Board of School Trustees, 33 Ill. App.2d 314, 179 N.E.2d 275 (1962).
Plaintiffs base their argument principally on the claim that personal preference of the parents was the only evidence introduced in favor of the boundary change. In view of the guidelines established by Article 7 of the School Code (Ill Rev Stats 1961, c 122, § 7-6), *fn1 this consideration would not be sufficient, according to plaintiffs, to warrant a detachment order. They further contend that the loss of revenue to the elementary school district occasioned by the detachment would be a serious detriment to the proper functioning of the school, in contravention of the statutory requirement that a transfer be in the "best interests of the schools of the area and the educational welfare of the pupils."
An examination of the record discloses, however, that many considerations favored the change in boundaries. What plaintiffs have labelled "personal preference" was, we believe, the parental appreciation of these benefits, rather than an extra-statutory ground for board action. *fn2
The event which gave rise to the petition was the construction of the Tri-State toll road close to the western edge of Cook County. The petitioning territory comprises that area cut off by the road from plaintiff school districts to the east. In order to get to school, children from the petitioning area had to use one of two roads (at the extreme north and south ends of the area in question) to cross by bridge (itself a hazard for children) over the toll road. These crossroads are four-lane, heavily-travelled highways which are not provided with pedestrian walkways and are posted for a speed of 40 miles per hour.
In addition to this safety hazard, the barrier of the toll road to the east served to accentuate the area's identity with the neighboring western districts which had been a center for social, commercial and religious activities. Participation in these affairs has been considered an important factor in a child's development in Burnidge v. County Board of School Trustees of Kane County, 25 Ill. App.2d 503, 509, 167 N.E.2d 21 (1960) *fn3 and Board of Education of Libertyville-Fremont School Dist. v. County Board of School Trustees, 33 Ill. App.2d 314, 179 N.E.2d 275 (1962), *fn4 and districting which encouraged that result was approved in both these cases.
Another factor favoring detachment was the proximity of the high school in the annexing district 1/2 to 2 miles as compared with 2.2 to 3.5 miles to the detaching high school campuses.
Perhaps the most persuasive evidence of the desirability of the transfer is the fact that currently the detaching high school district is paying tuition to send four children to the annexing high school. At the hearing, George Olsen, the superintendent of the detaching high school, testified that he had obtained such authorization to give "the children in this area at the highschool level the advantage of being in school where they are meeting after school the same kids." *fn5 As a result of this arrangement, transfer of the elementary students would effect a desirable continuity of associations from elementary to high school. Cf. Board of Education of Libertyville-Fremont School Dist. v. County Board of School Trustees, 33 Ill. App.2d 314, 179 N.E.2d 275. *fn6
In view of the foregoing considerations, we believe there was substantial evidence to support the board's order.
Plaintiffs argue additionally that the detachment order was against the manifest weight of the evidence and that the board did not properly "take into consideration the division of funds and assets" and each district's ability to meet standards of recognition, as required by section 7-6.
The principal evidence offered against detachment was an estimated annual loss of $10,000 in revenue to the detaching elementary school district. *fn7 The district claimed that this amount was disproportionate to the reductions in cost attending the departure of the petitioning children (nine in number). The district would also lose state aid and special education funds.
Since the depression of the thirties the district had experienced financial difficulties which required the issuance of tax anticipation warrants each year. It was not until the year prior to the filing of the instant petition that the picture brightened with an increase in tax rate from $1.40 to $1.60 for educational purposes, *fn8 which amounted to an overall rate of $2 including payment on building and educational bonds and interest. The district was currently operating in the black, but the treasurer testified that if detachment were allowed, the district would be "kicked back down into the pool again," and from this it is argued that there would necessarily be a return to deficit financing.
In our judgment the district's need for revenue from the detached area was not impressive. The gross loss of $10,000 was less than 2 1/2% of its total budget of $420,000. So small a loss of revenue is not sufficient to stand in the way of an otherwise desirable change. Board of Education of Libertyville-Fremont School Dist. v. County Board of School Trustees, 33 Ill. App.2d 314, 179 N.E.2d 275 (1962); *fn9 Board of Education v. County Board of School Trustees, 45 Ill. App.2d 292, 294, 196 N.E.2d 3; Community Unit School Dist. No. 6 v. County Board, etc., 9 Ill. App.2d 116, 127, 132 N.E.2d 584; Community Consol. School Dist. No. 201 v. County Board of School Trustees, 7 Ill. App.2d 98, 102, 129 N.E.2d 43. The relative insignificance of the financial loss in the case before us distinguishes the situation from that in Oakdale Community School Dist. No. 1 v. Trustees, 12 Ill.2d 190, 145 N.E.2d 736 (1957) where detachment would have resulted in a loss of 20% of assessed valuation in one district and 10% in another. Such substantial losses, combined with resultant overcrowding in the annexing districts, were there held to outweigh the advantage of contiguity to trading and banking facilities in the annexing area, and, in consequence, a detachment order was reversed. On the facts presented in the instant proceedings, however, we cannot say that the financial picture was misapprehended by the board.
In addition, we consider the board to have fulfilled the requirement that it hear evidence as to each district's ability to meet standards of recognition. The annexing districts represented through the secretary's report that the transfer would not "create hardship on their pupils nor reduce the quality of their educational program." *fn10 The detaching high school district was in no difficulty, according to its superintendent. Although the remaining elementary school district had been in financial straits and at the hearing its treasurer had alluded to loss of recognition as a matter of concern for all schools, it was never claimed that detachment would have that result.
We conclude that the slight possible damage to the educational offerings of the detaching district through the slight possible financial loss was not certain to occur, and in any event was not clearly more important than the advantage to the petitioning children in attending the annexing schools. *fn11 The board order was, therefore, not contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. In so concluding, we bear in mind the sage comment of the Supreme Court in School Directors of School Dist. No. 82 v. Wolever, 26 Ill.2d 264, 267, 186 N.E.2d 281 (1962):
The judiciary is ill equipped to act as a super school board in assaying the complex factors involved in determining the best interest of the schools and the pupils affected by a change in boundaries.
Plaintiffs further attack the sufficiency of the compliance with the statutory requirement that a map and a written report be submitted to the board. The map is claimed to be defective in displaying only the losing districts and thus would not aid in the determination of whether the annexing districts were contiguous and could absorb the territory into a compact form as required by section 7-4. Ill Rev Stats, c 122, § 7-4.
It appears, however, that the map portrayed enough of the annexing districts to show that they adjoined the petitioning territory. Moreover, it was a fully detailed guide of the detaching district, showing streets, toll road, and schools as well as streams, parks and golf courses. When the map was amplified by the testimony of various witnesses that the territory was contiguous to the annexing districts, and further amplified by the board's own specific knowledge of the territory under its supervision (derived from prior proceedings), we conclude that the board had all of the information necessary for a proper determination from a geographical standpoint.
The sufficiency of the written report is also questioned. Section 7-6 directs that such a report show the "financial and educational conditions of districts involved and the probable effect of the proposed changes." The report in this case is not as complete as might ordinarily be expected. *fn12 What saves its otherwise scanty nature, however, is the context that gave rise to this proceeding. The board had issued prior detachment orders in the general area west of the toll road and had made a prior investigation of the particular area when only a portion of the owners now petitioning had applied for detachment. *fn13 The board had very evidently determined to wait until all of the area west of the toll road could be detached. With this background, we cannot say that the board was hampered by the meagerness of the report nor that the report failed to meet the minimum requirements of the statute, especially in view of the scope of the evidence at the hearing.
The only case discussing deficiencies in the map and written report is Crainville School Dist. No. 37 v. County Board, 32 Ill. App.2d 143, 146, 177 N.E.2d 248 (1961):
The secretary's purported map consisted merely of a drawing of a rectangle and his report of financial conditions merely showed assessed valuations, amounts levied and expended for educational purposes, and the amount of state aid claims. The statement does not include any information as to tax rates nor indebtedness, and there was no information as to the amount levied or expended for building purposes.
Besides these failures, the court found that there was "no testimony to supplement the scanty information in the report." The petitioners had failed to elaborate their reasons for requesting detachment and made no complaint of school conditions in the detaching district.
In the present case, the report, map and all the evidence, plus the prior investigation of the area by the board, demonstrate a substantial compliance with the statutory mandate.
Plaintiffs also claim that much of the matter presented to the board should not have been considered because it was not in the form of testimony by witnesses, but, rather, it was included in a statement made by an attorney for the petitioners. We think it appropriate for an administrative board to consider a presentation by an attorney in a case such as this, and note that the points he touched upon were essentially cumulative of the testimony and related to matters not in dispute. Ill Rev Stats c 122, § 7-6.
In our opinion there was sufficient evidence to support the board order; the decision was not against its manifest weight; and there was substantial compliance with statutory requirements. Accordingly, the judgment of the Circuit Court is affirmed.
DRUCKER and McCORMICK, JJ., concur.