APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County; the Hon.
JOHN S. GHENT, JR., Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE SOLFISBURG DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
This case arises on an application of the county treasurer and ex-officio county collector of Winnebago County for judgment for delinquent taxes assessed for the year 1963, filed in the Winnebago County division of the circuit court of the 17th Judicial Circuit, and for the adjudication of the objections filed and claims for refund of taxes paid under protest on the basis that the property was so excessively overvalued as to amount to constructive fraud.
The defendant, S.B.A. Company, the owner of two pieces of real estate referred to as tract I and tract II, objected to their assessment and sought a refund of taxes paid under protest. After a hearing the trial court reduced the assessments, and ordered a partial refund to the defendant. The collector appeals this order directly to this court because the case involves the revenue.
The two tracts involved are situated in Rockford. Tract I is occupied by a concrete and steel warehouse building built in 1949, containing 47,100 square feet. In 1963 the original assessment of $126,230 was reduced by the board of review to $110,230. It is agreed that assessments in Winnebago County are based on 60% of fair market value, and therefore the final assessment was based upon a full value of approximately $183,700.
An officer of the defendant thought the property was worth $104,000 in 1963 with a reproduction cost of $170,000. William Franzen, a qualified appraiser testified for defendant that in his opinion the full fair cash market value of tract I was $173,500.
As to tract II the property was assessed by the assessor at $48,330 and reduced by the board of review after hearing to $34,500. Defendant's only qualified expert, Franzen, was of the opinion that the fair cash market value of tract II was $43,000. Deputy assessor Wood testified that the reproduction cost of the building on tract II was $110,000 and the fair cash market value was $57,000.
The trial court, after hearing, sustained the defendant's objections on the ground of constructive fraud, found that the assessed value of tract I should be $106,110, and should be $28,700 for tract II, and ordered tax refunds of $137.03 on tract I and $192.91 on tract II.
In summary the difference of opinion as to assessed value and full value are as follows:
Assessed Appraised Value Value Board of Review .................. $110,230 $183,700 Trial Court ...................... 106,110 177,000 Defendant's Appraiser ............ 104,100 173,500
Board of Review .................. $ 34,500 $ 57,500 Trial Court ...................... 28,700 47,800 Defendant's Appraiser ............ 25,800 43,000
The collector's theory is that the court cannot be an assessing officer; that the objectors did not prove actual or constructive fraud by clear and convincing evidence; that the assessed value of property may not be impeached merely because of a difference of opinion as to value between the assessing officer and the court; and that an assessment is not fraudulent merely because it is excessive, if the assessor has acted from proper motives.
The defendant taxpayer argues that the evidence was sufficient to sustain the finding of constructive fraud, and to deny a taxpayer judicial review of his ...