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Board of Review v. Dept. of Revenue

OPINION FILED MAY 27, 1971.

THE WILL COUNTY BOARD OF REVIEW ET AL., APPELLANTS,

v.

THE PROPERTY TAX APPEAL BOARD OF THE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE ET AL., APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Will County; the Hon. MICHAEL A. ORENIC, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE SCHAEFER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The Will County Board of Review (Board of Review) brought this action under the Administrative Review Act in the circuit court of Will County to review a decision of the Property Tax Appeal Board of the Department of Revenue (Appeal Board) which decreased the assessed valuation of certain property in Will County owned by the Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago (Sanitary District). The complaint named as defendants the Appeal Board, the Sanitary District, the County Clerk and the Treasurer and ex officio County Collector of Will County. Several tax levying units joined as plaintiffs and also sought leave to intervene as parties plaintiff. The circuit court confirmed the decision of the Appeal Board, and the Board of Review and some of the tax levying units have appealed directly to this court. 43 Ill.2d R. 302.

The procedures for the assessment of property for taxation in Will County commence with the local assessor, whose product is subject to revision — first by the county supervisor of assessments and then by the county board of review. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 120, pars. 576, 589.) Until 1967 the assessment process terminated there. In that year the General Assembly created a State agency to review property tax assessments made by local officials. That agency is the Property Tax Appeal Board of the Department of Revenue, which consists of three members appointed by the Governor. The statute which created the agency provides: "In any county other than a county of over 1,000,000 population * * *, any taxpayer dissatisfied with the decision of a board of review as such decision pertains to the assessment of his property for taxation purposes, or any taxing body that has an interest in the decision of the board of review on an assessment made by any local assessment officer, may, * * * appeal such decision to the Property Tax Appeal Board for review. Such taxpayer or taxing body, hereinafter called the appellant, shall file a petition with the clerk of the Property Tax Appeal Board, setting forth specifically the facts upon which he bases his objection to the decision of the board of review, together with a statement of the contentions of law which he desires to raise, and the relief he requests." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 120, par. 592.1,) The clerk of the Appeal Board is required to mail a copy of the petition to the board of review whose decision is being appealed. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 120, par. 592.2.

The Appeal Board is authorized to establish by rule "an informal procedure for the determination of the correct assessment of property which is the subject of an appeal." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 120, par. 592.2.) The statute provides that "A hearing shall be granted if any party to the appeal so requests, and, upon motion of any party to the appeal or by direction of the Property Tax Appeal Board, any appeal may be set down for a hearing, with proper notice to the interested parties." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 120, par. 592.3.) Decisions of the Appeal Board are to "be based upon equity and the weight of evidence and not upon constructive fraud," and they are "subject to review under the provisions of the Administrative Review Act." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 120, par. 592.4.

Before the Will County Board of Review, the Sanitary District sought reductions in the assessed valuation of eight parcels of property. After a hearing, the Board of Review sustained the original assessment in each case. The Sanitary District then filed eight "Petitions for Real Property Assessment Appeal" with the Property Tax Appeal Board. Notice of a hearing was sent to the Sanitary District, with carbon copies to the Will County Supervisor of Assessments and the State's Attorney, and to "State Attorneys, Board of Review, Supervisors of Assessment, [and] County Treasurers" through the Supervisor and the State's Attorney.

The State's Attorney of Will County represented the respondents at the hearing, at which extensive testimony was taken and exhibits were introduced. Thereafter the Appeal Board made its findings and rendered its decisions which reduced the assessed valuation on seven of the eight parcels in the total amount of $1,311,795.

The Board of Review then filed its complaint under the Administrative Review Act, naming as defendants the Appeal Board, the Sanitary District, the County Clerk, and the Treasurer and ex officio County Collector. Several tax levying bodies joined in the complaint, and also sought leave to intervene as parties. The complaint attacked the correctness of the ruling of the Appeal Board and also asserted that "the statute under which this decision was rendered is unconstitutional and void because the same makes no provision for the Taxing bodies affected to be notified of said proceedings and said Taxing bodies * * * were not notified and had no knowledge of the proceedings * * *." Both the Appeal Board and the Sanitary District moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that the Will County Board of Review was not a "party" within the meaning of the Administrative Review Act, had no appealable interest and no statutory authority to institute an action under the Administrative Review Act. They also resisted intervention by the local taxing bodies on the ground that they were not parties to the proceedings before the Appeal Board and therefore lacked standing to intervene. The court denied the motions to dismiss, granted the motions to intervene, and on the merits confirmed the decisions of the Appeal Board.

The Board of Review and some of the taxing bodies have appealed. The Appeal Board and the Sanitary District moved to dismiss the appeal on the grounds, first, that the Board of Review had lacked statutory authority to institute the administrative review action and so was without authority to appeal from the judgment entered in that action, and, second, that leave to intervene in the administrative review action had been improperly granted to the taxing bodies, who, having erroneously been made parties, could not appeal.

These motions were denied by this court on the grounds (1) that the authority of the Board of Review to appeal follows by necessary implication from the provisions of the statute which require that the Board of Review be notified of the filing of the petition with the Appeal Board and that the decision of the Appeal Board be certified to the Board of Review. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 120, pars. 592.2, 592.4), and (2) that under section 26.1 of the Civil Practice Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 110, par. 26.1) the taxing bodies were properly permitted to intervene in the adminstrative review action.

On the merits, we consider first the contention of the intervening taxing bodies that they were denied their statutory right to notice of the proceedings before the Appeal Board. That contention is based upon section 111.3 of the Revenue Act which provides: "A hearing shall be granted if any party to the appeal so requests, and, upon motion of any party to the appeal or by direction of the Property Tax Appeal Board, any appeal may be set down for hearing, with proper notice to the interested parties." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 120, par. 592.3.) "Any reasonable interpretation of the phrase `interested parties'" the argument runs, "would require that taxing bodies being deprived of $1,311,795.00 in assessed valuation and a yearly tax loss based on then current tax rates of more than $63,000.00 ought to be considered `interested parties.'"

The statute provides that when a taxpayer files a complaint with the Appeal Board, a copy is to be sent to the board of review whose decision is being appealed. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 120, par. 592.2.) The proceedings before the Appeal Board are thus initially between the taxpayer and the board of review. There was, however, a readily available method by which the taxing bodies could have become parties to the proceeding before the Appeal Board if they had desired to do so. The Appeal Board's Rule 6 provides: "a. Any taxpayer whose property tax assessment has been made or reviewed by the Board of Review, and who is aggrieved by such assessment on review, or any taxing body having a revenue interest in such property may become a party to the appeal. b. Such taxpayer or taxing body may become a party to the appeal by filing * * * with the Clerk of the Board a Request to Intervene * * *, signifying his or its intention to become a party to the appeal, within 20 days after the appeal is commenced." In this case the taxing bodies made no effort to intervene and so did not become parties entitled to notice under section 111.3 (par. 592.3).

They also argue that if the amendments creating the Appeal Board do not require that notice be given to them, those amendments are unconstitutional because they violate due process. This argument is not persuasive. We know of no authority which holds that due process requires a State to give its local taxing bodies a right to be heard with respect to the valuation of a taxpayer's property for taxing purposes. If local taxing bodies do not have a constitutional right to be heard, they do not have a constitutional right to notice. And since one taxpayer is not entitled to notice of proceedings affecting the assessed valuation of another taxpayer's property, the taxing bodies can not assert any vicarious right to notice on behalf of other taxpayers.

Thus we come to the contention that the Appeal Board's decisions reducing the assessed valuations on the seven Sanitary District parcels were incorrect. We consider first the Appeal Board's finding No. 4, which concerns the assessed valuations of the five parcels of unimproved real property which vary in size from 7.12 to 115.40 acres. They consist largely of property constituting the bed of the Des Plaines River. Four of the parcels are 95% under water; all five are subject to a public easement for navigation, and the disputed 1967 assessed valuations of the five ranged from $500 to $2000 per acre. The Appeal Board reduced these valuations to $100 per acre. The appellants contend that "there is no competent substantial evidence to support the findings and orders of the Property Tax Appeal Board." We do not agree.

Robert A. Wallace, an attorney for the Sanitary District, testified concerning a "comparative value" statement which he had prepared and which was received in evidence. The statement indicated the location of each parcel adjacent to the Sanitary District properties, its total acreage, its improvements, if any, its total 1966 and 1967 assessed valuations, and its 1967 per acre assessed valuation. This statement demonstrated that adjacent unimproved parcels, including property used ...


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