APPEAL from the Circuit Court of McLean County; the Hon. KEITH
E. CAMPBELL, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE TRAPP DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Plaintiff appeals from the order of the trial court entered in consolidated cases which sustained defendants' (herein designated objectors) objections to certain real estate taxes which had been duly paid under protest and which ordered refunds to be made to the objectors.
The sole issue argued by the plaintiff (herein designated Collector) is whether the trial court had jurisdiction to hear and rule upon the tax objections filed.
In November 1974, the Department of Local Government Affairs (herein designated Department), determined the "fair cash value" of the property of the objectors as provided in section 80 of the Revenue Act of 1939 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 120, par. 561). Section 1(24) of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 120, par. 482(24)) provides:
"[T]he term `fair cash value' when used in this Act means 50% of the actual value of real and personal property."
Thereafter, the Department certified to the county clerk assessments upon the property of the respective objectors within the county which were 50 percent of the actual value of the several properties.
Effective in 1963, section 80 of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 120, par. 561), provided:
"The Department shall determine the equalized assessed value of the property of every railroad company, other than non-carrier real estate, by applying to its determination of the fair cash value of such property of every railroad company an equalization factor, which factor shall be the statewide average ratio of the equalized assessed value of locally assessed property to the full, fair cash value of such locally assessed property."
Section 86 of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 120, par. 567), provided:
"The Department shall distribute the equalized assessed value of the property of every railroad company (other than non-carrier real estate), when determined as prescribed in Section 80 of this Act, to the respective taxing districts entitled thereto and shall certify the same to the county clerks of the respective counties who shall extend taxes against such values the same as against other property in such taxing districts."
The objectors alleged and introduced record and documentary evidence to establish that the Department certified to the county clerk assessments of the property of the respective objectors at the "fair cash value" as defined. They also introduced evidence that the statewide average ratio of the Collector's assessed value of locally assessed property for 1974 was 31 per cent of the actual fair cash value. The Collector introduced no evidence and there is no contradiction of the fact of such assessment as alleged in the objections.
The trial court found that the objections were made in apt time and proper form and that the property of the respective defendants was assessed at 50 per cent of the actual value contrary to the statutory provision which required equalization at "[T]he statewide average ratio of equalized assessed value of locally assessed property", and that such ratio for the year 1974 was 31 per cent. The court further found that such disparity was constructively fraudulent and warranted refund.
The Collector had filed a motion to dismiss the objections alleging that section 138 of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 120, par. 619) provides that the provisions of the Administrative Review Act govern the judicial review of the final administrative decisions of the Department, that no objection was filed to such assessment made by the Department, and that no proceedings in administrative review were brought within 35 days from the date of the final administrative decision (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. ...