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In Re Roberts Park Fire Protection Dist.

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 26, 1975.

IN RE ROBERTS PARK FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT, PETITIONER. — (ROBERTS PARK FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT, APPELLEE,

v.

THE VILLAGE OF BRIDGEVIEW, APPELLANT.)



Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Harry G. Comerford, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE KLUCZYNSKI DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied November 21, 1975.

This action commenced in 1965 in the circuit court of Cook County when the Roberts Park Fire Protection District (hereinafter District) filed a petition seeking to avoid the disconnection by operation of law of a certain area of the Village of Bridgeview (hereinafter Village) which is located within the fire protection district. Following an evidentiary hearing in 1972 the trial court dismissed an amended petition that had been filed by the District. The appellate court reversed (In re Roberts Park Fire Protection District, 20 Ill. App.3d 282), and we granted leave to appeal. The Village contends, basically, that the trial court's decision was not against the manifest weight of evidence and that the appellate court construed the language of the applicable statute too narrowly.

Section 20 of "An Act in relation to fire protection districts" was enacted in 1965 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1965, ch. 127 1/2, par. 38.3), and provided that:

"Any territory within a fire protection district that is or has been annexed to a city, village or incorporated town that provides fire protection for property within such city, village or incorporated town is, by operation of law, disconnected from the fire protection district as of the January first after such territory is annexed to the city, village or incorporated town, or in case any such territory has been so annexed prior to the effective date of this amendatory Act of 1965, as of January 1, 1966. Such disconnection by operation of law does not occur if, within 60 days after such annexation or after the effective date of this amendatory Act of 1965, whichever is later, the fire protection district files with the appropriate court a petition alleging that such disconnection will cause the territory remaining in the district to be noncontiguous or that the loss of assessed valuation by reason of such disconnection will impair the ability of the district to render fully adequate fire protection service to the territory remaining with the district. When such a petition is filed, the court shall set it for hearing, and further proceedings shall be held, as provided in Section 15 of this Act. At such hearing, the district has the burden of proving the truth of the allegations in its petition. If there are any general obligation bonds of the fire protection district outstanding and unpaid at the time such territory is disconnected from the fire protection district by operation of this Section, such territory shall remain liable for its proportionate share of such bonded indebtedness and the fire protection district may continue to levy and extend taxes upon the taxable property in such territory for the purpose of amortizing such bonds until such time as sufficient funds to retire such bonds have been collected." (Emphasis added.)

The District filed the petition alleging that part of its territory had been annexed to the Village prior to the effective date of the amendatory act and that the loss of assessed valuation by reason of the disconnection would impair its ability to render fully adequate fire protection service to the remaining territory in the District. No question is raised that this petition was not timely filed. The amended petition, from the dismissal of which this appeal is taken, additionally maintained that certain provisions of section 20, which prescribe automatic disconnection, were unconstitutional, because they impaired the obligation of contracts entered into by the District.

Prior to a hearing the parties entered into a stipulation which set forth the total assessed value of all real property within the District and within that portion of the District inside the Village, the total tax rate, and the totals of taxes extended and received for the tax years 1968-1971. That information is as follows:

1968 1969 1970 1971

Assessed value of all District property $41,937,846 $51,836,860 $61,418,325 $70,507,052

Tax Rate 0.10 0.098 0.278 0.256

Assessed value of District property within Village 8,361,051 10,872,236 14,606,328 17,093,585

Taxes extended 41,938 50,800 170,743 180,498

Taxes received by District 38,454 45,133 168,841 -

The stipulation also provided that "heretofore both the Village of Bridgeview and the Roberts Park Fire Protection District have rendered fully adequate fire protection service to the territory within their respective corporate limits." No issue is presented as to the propriety of considering the financial situation existing from 1968 to 1972 in determining ...


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