APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. DONALD
J. O'BRIEN, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE SCHAEFER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Rehearing denied May 26, 1970.
In a class action brought by taxpayers in the city of Chicago, the circuit court of Cook County held unconstitutional section 36.6 of the Fees and Salaries Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 53, par. 55.6) insofar as it relates to the commission allowed to township collectors in Cook County on account of taxes collected by them, and directed that all "property taxes in Cook County shall hereafter be collected by the Cook County Collector until further order of this Court." The defendants, who are the county collector of Cook County and the 30 township collectors in Cook County, together with certain townships and others who were granted leave to intervene, have appealed directly to this court.
A description of the statutory scheme for the collection of property taxes in Cook County is essential to an understanding of the issues in this case. There are no townships in the city of Chicago. In that portion of Cook County outside the city limits of Chicago, there are 30 townships. The boundaries of four of the townships, Berwyn, Cicero, Evanston, and Oak Park, are coterminous with the boundaries of cities or villages bearing the same names. There are two taxing bodies, Cook County and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, that levy taxes on all property in Cook County. A third, The Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago, levies taxes on all property in the city of Chicago and on some, but not all, of the remaining property in the county.
Taxpayers owning property in the city of Chicago are required to pay their taxes to the county collector, who is by section 21 of the Fees and Salaries Act authorized to deduct a commission of one and one-half percent on all money collected, except that he is allowed a commission of one percent on money "collected for incorporated cities, villages and other municipalities." In addition he is allowed three-fourths of one percent on money paid over to him by township collectors. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 53, par. 39.) These commissions are deposited by the county collector in the general corporate fund of the county.
Taxpayers owning property in that part of Cook County lying outside of the city of Chicago, referred to by the parties as "suburban Cook County," may pay their taxes to the county collector with the same result so far as commissions are concerned. These taxpayers, however, have an alternative which is not available to taxpayers in the city of Chicago. They may pay their taxes to the township collector of the township in which their property is located. If they do so, the township collector is allowed a commission which is fixed by section 36.6 of the Fees and Salaries Act at "2% of all moneys collected by him." That section provides that the township collector may retain a specified amount as his compensation, as well as his expenses if authorized. The section then continues: "After payment of the foregoing amounts to the town or district collector as compensation for his services, the excess of the commission allowed shall be paid into the town treasury, except that in townships comprised of only one village or city, the corporate limits of which are coextensive with the corporate limits of the township, the excess shall be paid into the village or city treasury." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 53, par. 55.6.
The controversy in this case centers upon the fact that in the case of taxes paid to the county collector, the commissions that are deducted for making the collections are deposited in the general corporate fund of Cook County, for the use and benefit of all residents of the county, whereas in the case of taxes paid to township collectors the excess of the two percent commission, over and above the salary and expenses of the collector, is turned over to the township and is used for local, rather than county-wide, purposes. The parties have stipulated: "The 30 Township Collectors in surburban Cook County collected more than 350 million dollars in taxes during the collection period of 1969. From these collections during 1969, Township Collectors deducted commissions in excess of 7 million dollars. This sum of 350 million dollars included $21,875,000 dollars in taxes levied by the County of Cook and commissions deducted from these taxes amounted to $437,500; and $3,500,000 in taxes levied by The Forest Preserve District with commissions of $70,000."
The amounts paid as commissions to township collectors in Cook County for 1967 and 1968 tax collections are shown as follows in the Report of the Governor's Revenue Study Committee, 1968-69, of which Simeon E. Leland was chairman:
COMMISSIONS PAID TO COOK COUNTY COUNTRY TOWNSHIP
COLLECTORS FOR 1967 AND 1966 TAX COLLECTIONS
Barrington $ 30,937 $ 25,428 Berwyn 121,622 116,789 Bloom 274,856 248,852 Bremen 175,731 153,334 Calumet 65,379 62,038 Cicero 225,480 212,777 Elk Grove 286,011 249,275 Evanston 353,971 327,231 Hanover 58,439 49,773 Lemont 19,325 17,150 Leyden 430,537 396,652 Lyons 391,119 339,484 Main 513,254 461,893 New Trier 411,644 368,541 Niles 561,593 545,132 Northfield 261,357 223,216 Norwood Park 96,863 88,375 Oak Park 210,409 198,127 Orland 33,089 30,197 Palatine 161,124 146,706 Palos 73,045 63,545 Proviso 548,247 525,745 Rich 168,041 143,038 River Forest 67,276 60,028 Riverside 67,544 58,843 Schaumberg 98,486 84,739 Stickney 223,358 205,199 Thornton 466,204 424,429 Wheeling 358,482 323,291 Worth 369,671 325,207 __________ __________ Total $7,120,370 $6,475,047
The same report points out that some of the townships actively solicit early payment of taxes to the township collectors, so that the townships will receive the benefit of the excess of the commissions. As has been indicated, the statute provides that in those townships whose boundaries are coterminous with those of cities or villages, the excess commissions are to be paid into the city or village treasury. In other instances, as shown by the intervening petition of Harold A. ...