APPEAL from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County; the Hon.
CARL H. BECKER, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE EBERSPACHER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Rehearing denied November 9, 1977.
This case arises from the action of the Board of Assessors of St. Clair County which in 1972 reassessed certain properties. The taxpayers administratively sought relief from the assessments before the Board of Review where they were not fully successful, and from there they perfected appeals to the State Property Tax Appeal Board. This Board affirmed the determinations of the Board of Review and the taxpayers then instituted proceedings for administrative review in the circuit court of St. Clair County. In parallel proceedings the taxpayers paid their 1972 real estate taxes, and subsequently their 1973 and 1974 taxes, under protest and they filed objections to the applications for judgment for the taxes filed by the county treasurer acting as the ex-officio collector of taxes. The trial court consolidated all the foregoing cases and entered judgment overruling the Property Tax Appeal Board, dismissing the applications for judgment, and ordering the taxes for the years 1972, 1973 and 1974 to be recomputed on the basis of 1971 assessments with proper refunds to be made to each taxpayer for those years. Both the Property Tax Appeal Board and the county treasurer appeal from the judgment entered.
This appeal involves 12 taxpayers (one of the taxpayers only filed an objection to his 1973 taxes but this case was also consolidated with those of the other taxpayers). Upon consolidation of the administrative review cases and the tax objection cases, it was agreed to by the parties that the evidence presented before the Board of Review and the Property Tax Appeal Board would apply equally to the tax objection cases and that no additional evidence would be introduced in connection therewith. The evidence essentially shows that the instant taxpayers own certain commercial and industrial real estate properties in Belleville Township. St. Clair County is divided into four assessment districts and District Two thereof includes Belleville Township and four other townships. The quadrennial assessment year for District Two was 1971. In 1972, the Board of Assessors of St. Clair County revised the assessments of commercial and industrial properties and of only those such properties within Belleville Township with three exceptions. Farm real estate and residential property in Belleville Township was not similarly reassessed unless such property was a part of a commercial establishment. In addition commercial and industrial properties situated in townships other than Belleville Township in District Two were not similarly reassessed. There was also testimony that St. Clair County had not authorized the classification of real estate for tax purposes.
The evidence additionally showed that the assessments of the Board of Assessors were solely based on appraisals made by a private appraisal firm; that the work of the assessors was not completed until December 15, 1972; that an affidavit signed by two members of the Board of Assessors was not attached to the assessment books at the time of a hearing before the Board of Review on January 8, 1973, but was subsequently attached thereto; that the affidavit bore the date September 15, 1972, and stated that the work of the Board of Assessors had been completed on that date; and that the Board of Review had continued its work in January 1973, although its authority had expired.
On the basis of this evidence the trial court ruled that the reassessments in issue violated the constitutional guarantee of uniformity of taxation set forth in article 9, section 4 of the Illinois Constitution of 1970 because the reassessment was limited to only Belleville Township with three exceptions and to only commercial and industrial properties situated therein. Further, the court found the reassessments to be an unauthorized attempted classification of property in violation of article 9, section 4(b) of the Illinois Constitution and in violation of the equal protection of the laws. Next the court found that the combination of "errors, omissions and statutory violations" were such as to constitute a constructive fraud, a denial of due process to the taxpayers and resulted in a tax unauthorized by law. These errors, omissions and statutory violations consisted of the following: First, the court found that by making a "partial general assessment" of District Two in a nonquadrennial year, the Board of Assessors violated section 43 of the Revenue Act of 1939 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 120, par. 524). Secondly, the court found that this provision was also violated when the appraisals made by a private company were "blindly accepted by the Assessor and his deputies without actually viewing and personally determining" the value of each property. Next, the court found three violations of section 96 of the Revenue Act of 1939 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 120, par. 577), in that the work of the Board of Assessors was not completed until December 15, 1972; that the required affidavit was not then attached to the assessment books; and that when it was eventually attached, it incorrectly stated that the work had been completed on September 15. Further the court found that the Board of Assessors, by failing to return the assessment books to the Board of Review by the third Monday in June 1972, violated section 100 of the Revenue Act of 1939 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 120, par. 581). Lastly, the court found a violation of section 102 of the Revenue Act of 1939 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 120, par. 588), in that the Board of Review conducted its work in January 1973, after its authority had expired.
On appeal, the appellants present numerous issues for review in part stemming from the anomalous consolidation of the various administrative review cases and tax objection cases. Since, however, we find the evidence to be insufficient to support the trial court's ruling we will focus our attention on this dispositive issue.
The appellants contend that the evidence presented by the taxpayers fails to show a violation of the requirement of uniformity in taxation. We agree.
Article 9, section 4(a), of the Constitution of 1970 provides that:
"Except as otherwise provided in this Section, taxes upon real property shall be levied uniformly by valuation ascertained as the General Assembly shall provide by law."
In discussing an analogous provision of the prior constitution, the court in Apex Motor Fuel Co. v. Barrett, 20 Ill.2d 395, 169 N.E.2d 769, stated:
"Uniformity in taxation, as required by the constitution, implies equality in the burden of taxation, and this equality in burden cannot exist without uniformity in the basis of assessment as well as in the rate of taxation. [Citation.] The rule of uniformity requires an equality of taxation in proportion to the value of the property taxed. It prohibits the taxation of one kind of property within the taxing district at one value while the same kind of property in the same district for taxation purposes is valued at either a grossly less value or a grossly higher value." (20 Ill.2d 395, 401, 169 N.E.2d 769, 773; see also People ex rel. Tedrick v. Allied Oil Corp., 388 Ill. 219, 57 N.E.2d 859; M.F.M. Corp. v. Cullerton, 16 Ill. App.3d 681, 306 N.E.2d 505.)
Under the provisions applicable to the instant case, the taxpayers' property was to be valued for taxation purposes at 50% of the actual value of the property. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 120, pars. 482(24), 501.) The chief clerk of the Board of Assessors testified that he was instructed to take 50% of the actual value of the taxpayers' properties as established by the appraisals that had been made, and place these on the assessment rolls. It is undisputed that this was done by him. The taxpayers presented no evidence showing that other commercial and industrial property or other kinds of property in District Two were assessed at a lower percentage rate of actual value than was required by law and applied to them. Nor was there evidence that the appraisals upon which their assessments were based had not represented the actual values of their real properties. Moreover, there was no evidence that other real property in District Two was undervalued except for some evidence of a sales-ratio study of 20 randomly picked properties showing variations between the assessed value and the sale price which evidence alone, we find to be inconclusive. Thus the record is barren of evidence showing that as compared to other property in the taxing district, that the tax paid by the taxpayers was disproportionate to the value of their properties.
• 1 The taxpayers, however, rely on the fact that in each instance, the reassessments in issue resulted in a higher assessment of the properties, and that only a limited group of properties were so reassessed. When analyzed, the taxpayers' assertion appears to be that the mere fact that only a limited group of properties in District Two were reassessed establishes per se a lack of ...