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Uretsky v. Baschen

OPINION FILED APRIL 1, 1977.

JACK L. URETSKY ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,

v.

WILLIAM K. BASCHEN, DOWNERS GROVE TOWNSHIP ASSESSOR, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Du Page County; the Hon. BRUCE R. FAWELL, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE SEIDENFELD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied May 2, 1977.

Jack L. Uretsky and the LaGrange State Bank (hereinafter the taxpayer) filed a three-count complaint against the Downers Grove Township Assessor and the Du Page County Board of Review which, as amended, essentially challenged the increased valuation of the taxpayer's property as a part of an alleged reassessment of all residential real property in Downers Grove Township in a nonquadrennial year. In count I the taxpayer sought a declaratory judgment that the assessor's revision in the nonquadrennial year 1974 was unauthorized by law and void. In count II declaration was sought that section 46 of the Revenue Act of 1939 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 120, par. 527), pursuant to which the revised assessments were purportedly made, was unconstitutional. The taxpayer sought to enjoin collection based on the claimed unlawful assessment, to enjoin further nonquadrennial assessments, and to temporarily restrain collection pending a hearing on his prayer for a preliminary injunction. Count III charged the assessor and the board with failure to accord the taxpayer procedural due process. In this count the taxpayer asked the court to set aside the increased assessment, to enjoin the board to reschedule its hearing on the taxpayer's complaint, and to award damages.

The defendants' motions to dismiss the complaint were granted, and the taxpayer appeals.

The taxpayer's suit is premised on his argument that the alleged 1974 general reassessment of residential real estate in Downers Grove Township was unauthorized by law. The resolution of this question involves several sections of the Revenue Act.

Section 46 provides as pertinent:

"The supervisor of assessments, the county assessor or the board of assessors of any county having fewer than 1,000,000 inhabitants, or the township assessor of any township in any such county, may in any year revise an assessment and correct such assessment as shall appear to him or them to be just. * * *" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 120, par. 527.)

Section 111.1 of the Revenue Act provides as pertinent:

"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, * * * may, within 30 days after the date of written notice of the decision of the board of review, appeal such decision to the Property Tax Appeal Board for review. * * * However, any taxpayer not satisfied with the decision of the board of review as such decision pertains to the assessment of his property for taxation purposes, need not appeal such decision to the Property Tax Appeal Board for review before seeking relief in the courts>." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 120, par. 592.1.

The taxpayer argues that the assessor and the board had no authority under section 46 of the Revenue Act to reassess property in nonquadrennial years. He reasons that prior to 1971 section 46 prohibited assessors from revising assessed valuations in nonquadrennial years with exceptions not relevant here and that the 1971 amendment of section 46 was not intended to permit assessors to make annual assessments. He argues that the amendment was part of an act changing the equalization powers of the Department of Local Government Affairs and merely empowered the assessor to conduct nonquadrennial reassessments when ordered by the Department or to correct mistakes on individual assessments. He further contends that if the 1971 amendment was intended to permit the assessor to conduct general reassessments annually, it violated the constitutional provision mandating that bills be confined to one subject. (Ill. Const. 1970, art. IV, § 8(d).) The taxpayer also refers to section 30 of the Revenue Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 120, par. 511) which provides generally for quadrennial assessments.

The defendants answer that the taxpayer is seeking the aid of equity in a matter which is properly the subject of a legal remedy through the tax objection procedures. (See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 120, pars. 675, 716.) Responding to the alleged unconstitutionality of section 46 of the Revenue Act, the defendants argue that there is no equity jurisdiction since the taxpayer does not claim that the total assessment is unauthorized by law but only the increased portion of the 1974 real estate taxes involved in the reassessment.

• 1 The initial question of the propriety of the trial court's denial of declaratory relief under counts I and II is in turn dependent upon whether the taxpayer was entitled to the injunctive relief which he sought. The entry of a declaratory judgment in a real property tax case is not precluded. (See People ex rel. Hamer v. Jones, 39 Ill.2d 360, 369 (1968).) In order to avoid interference with the collection of revenues, however, it has been held that relief should not be afforded by way of declaratory judgment "in any cases which would not have merited relief in equity by injunction * * *." Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. Tierney, 411 Ill. 421, 431 (1952). See also La Salle National Bank v. County of Cook, 57 Ill.2d 318, 322 (1974); People ex rel. Hamer v. Jones, 39 Ill.2d 360, 369 (1968).

We therefore first consider whether the taxpayer was entitled to injunctive relief.

• 2 The general rules upon which equity assumes jurisdiction over the assessment and collection of real estate taxes have been clearly stated in Clarendon ...


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