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Bd. of Educ. of Dekalb v. Cronin

OPINION FILED MARCH 1, 1979.

BOARD OF EDUCATION OF DEKALB COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 428, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

JOSEPH M. CRONIN, SUPERINTENDENT, ILLINOIS OFFICE OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ARTHUR L. DUNNE, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE JOHNSON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

On November 18, 1974, the plaintiff, Board of Education of DeKalb Community Unit School District No. 428, filed its complaint for declaratory relief in the circuit court of Cook County. Plaintiff contended that the defendant Superintendent of the Illinois Office of Education had incorrectly computed the amount of plaintiff's 1973-1974 State aid, and sought a construction of section 18-8 of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 122, par. 18-8), that would entitle plaintiff to an additional amount of State aid. On December 2, 1975, the circuit court entered a summary judgment in plaintiff's favor. The defendant appeals and we reverse.

The issue presented for review is whether the manifest intent of the Illinois General Assembly is to use 1971-1973 statistics in the base year computations for resource equalizer aid.

The facts are as follows: In 1969 the Illinois State Legislature amended section 18-8 of the School Code to provide impaction aid reimbursements for the school year just ended to those eligible school districts which might make application for said reimbursements on or before August 15, 1969. On August 6, 1969, plaintiff school district made a timely application for impaction aid reimbursement for the 1968-1969 school year. In each of the school years succeeding 1968-1969, up to and including school year 1972-1973, the plaintiff school district (hereinafter referred to as "the District"), applied for and qualified for section 18-8 impaction aid reimbursement. Plaintiff district has received impaction aid reimbursements in each of the five years from 1969-1970 to and including 1973-1974, the payments received in each school year constituting reimbursement for the plaintiff's impaction aid claim of the previous school year.

In 1973, the Illinois General Assembly enacted an alternative school aid program referred to as the resource equalizer. This was an amendment to then existing section 18-8 of the School Code. Illinois school districts were given the option to choose whichever State aid program allowed the most fiscal assistance. The resource equalizer State aid formula was worded as follows:

"Each district shall be entitled to only 1/4 of the calculated increase each year in excess of its actual entitlement, except it may earn an entitlement which includes proportionate increases if the pupil population increases. A district may not be paid a sum in excess of a 25% increase in the actual entitlement during the previous year as adjusted for weighted ADA but may in subsequent years continue to receive 25% increases until it is being paid the full amount of its annual entitlement * * *." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 122, par. 18-872(e).

It was this version of the amended statute that was in effect at the time the instant controversy arose. Despite the complexity of the resource equalizer formula it did not state how to calculate the base from which the 25% increases were allowed. There was no explicit reference made by the Illinois General Assembly as to the inclusion of impaction aid in the resource equalizer base.

In a letter to Illinois school superintendents dated July 18, 1973, Michael J. Bakalis, then Illinois Superintendent of Public Instruction interpreted the 1973 amendment to include impaction aid in the resource equalizer base. Bakalis stated that districts reimbursed under the resource equalizer cease to qualify for State impaction aid beginning July 1, 1973, and have monies received during fiscal 1973 from State impaction claims included in the base entitlement for 1972-1973. He also stated that payments were limited to one-fourth of the increase in the claim amount over the 1972-1973 base entitlement year over 25 percent more than the prior year's entitlement, whichever was the lesser under the resource equalizer, except for growth districts.

Effective with the school year 1973-1974, the District opted for the resource equalizer method of State funding. Upon choosing the resource equalizer formula the District became ineligible for State funding under the traditional formula for school year 1973-1974 and later, i.e., impaction aid. In 1973-1974, while the District received its estimated State aid (resource equalizer) for 1973-1974, it also received impaction aid reimbursement for the year 1972-1973.

On July 2, 1974, the Illinois General Assembly passed Public Act 78-1114, which again amended section 18-8 of the school Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 122, par. 18-8). In relevant part, it provided that in computing the base year entitlement under the resource equalizer formula:

"(e) Each district shall be entitled to the 1972-1973 actual general State aid entitlement, Section 18-8.1 State aid, 1971-1972 State impaction aid, 1971-1972 tax equivalent grant aid, 1971-1972 State-owned housing aid plus 1/4 of the difference between the projected claim amount and the total of the State support listed above during 1973-1974; plus 2/4 of the difference between the projected claim amount and the total of the State support listed above during 1974-1975; plus 3/4 and 4/4 in subsequent years." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 122, par. 18-8(9)(e).

On November 18, 1974, the District filed a complaint for declaratory relief against the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Illinois. It is not clear from the record the exact amount of school aid requested, but an additional amount of school aid was sought by plaintiff district. To support this claim for the additional amount of money the District claimed that the base year computation for the new resource equalizer aid should include 1972-1973 impaction aid of $621,074 received the following year instead of the 1971-1972 impaction aid of $461,334 received in 1972.

On January 17, 1975, the plaintiff filed its motion and notice for summary judgment. On January 20, 1975, defendant filed its answer. On February 19, 1975, the defendant moved that Joseph Cronin as Superintendent of the Illinois Office of Education be substituted as the successor defendant on this cause. Defendant also moved for summary judgment. By agreement the cross-motions for summary judgment were ordered for hearing. On December 2, 1975, the trial court entered its judgment order holding the plaintiff entitled to the additional State aid sought. From this order, the present appeal was brought.

Appellant contends that the manifest intent of the Illinois General Assembly is to use 1971-1973 statistics in the base year computations ...


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