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Hall v. Illinois Property Tax Appeal Bd.





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Peoria County; the Hon. EDWARD E. HAUGENS, Judge, presiding.


Plaintiff Robert C. Hall filed a complaint for administrative review of the decision of defendant Property Tax Appeal Board of the State of Illinois (hereinafter the Board) denying his petition for certain exemptions. After a hearing on the merits, the circuit court of Peoria County reversed the Board and remanded the cause for determination of certain facts. After the Board rendered its findings, plaintiff filed a second complaint and the court again reversed the Board's decision. Defendant Peoria County Board of Review, who rendered the initial decision in this matter, joins the Board in appealing the court's decision.

The facts out of which this litigation evolves are not in dispute. In December 1974, plaintiff purchased a personal residence from his father for $45,000. At that time, the home had an assessed valuation of $22,750, based upon a fair market value of $45,500. Plaintiff testified that the home was in poor condition and presented photographs to verify his conclusion. He stated he thereafter substantially remodeled the home by gutting and redoing its first floor; installing new cabinets, plumbing, and wiring; and painting and landscaping. At the hearing, it was stipulated that the cost of this renovation was $20,039.51. In January 1977, the assessed valuation of the home was increased to $29,560, based upon a fair market value of $88,680.

After this increase in valuation, plaintiff filed an application for two property tax exemptions. The first was the homestead improvement exemption, which then provided:

"In counties with less than 1,000,000 inhabitants, a homestead improvement exemption pursuant to Article IX, Section 6 of the 1970 Constitution limited to an annual maximum of $15,000 in actual value when that property is owned and used exclusively for a residential purpose upon demonstration that a proposed increase in assessed value is attributable solely to a new improvement of an existing structure. The amount of the exemption shall be limited to the actual value added by the new improvement up to an annual maximum of $15,000 and shall continue for 4 years from the date the improvement is completed and occupied." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 120, par. 500.23-2.)

The second was the maintenance and repair exemption, which then provided:

"In counties containing less than 3,000,000 inhabitants, maintenance and repairs to residential real estate in an amount not to exceed $7,500 in any 10 year period shall not increase the assessed valuation of such real property. For purposes of this Section, work shall be deemed repair and maintenance when it (1) does not increase the square footage of improvements but is limited to work performed for the purpose of prolonging the life of the property, with existing improvements, or keeping such property in a well maintained condition; and (2) employs materials, such as those used for roofing or siding, whose value is not greater than the replacement value of any materials being replaced by such materials. This Section shall not be construed to require an assessment increase in any case in which such increase would not have been required prior to the effective date of this amendatory Act of 1977." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 120, par. 501h-1.)

After the Peoria County Board of Review refused to grant the two exemptions, plaintiff appealed to the Board.

During the subsequent hearings by the Board, plaintiff introduced evidence of the condition and renovation of his home. Gary Matthews, a real estate broker, testified that, while the home's fair market value approached the $88,680 assigned by its assessor, $19,050 of that value was attributable to improvements and $8,450 of that value was attributable to repairs. Robert Potter, assessor of the city of Peoria, testified that the increase in valuation was not due to any improvements or repairs made by plaintiff but rather stemmed from a general increase for the entire neighborhood. This increase was based upon a "sales ration study" for the area, and he had never seen plaintiff's home nor had any knowledge of the improvements and repairs. Robert Thiemann, chairman of the Board of Review, offered essentially the same testimony, adding that the property had been conservatively valued. After the Board affirmed the denial of the exemptions, plaintiff appealed the decision pursuant to the provisions of the Administrative Review Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 110, par. 264 et seq.).

On administrative review, the trial court reversed the Board and remanded this cause for a determination of the classification, and effect on valuation, of the improvements and repairs. The Board found that the improvements and repairs had together increased the value of the property by $27,500, but that none of this work resulted in the increase in assessed valuation. Plaintiff again appealed, and the trial court again reversed the Board and granted the maximum exemptions allowable under the above provisions.

• 1 Our function on administrative review is to determine whether the Board has acted within and according to the provisions of the statute creating it, and whether or not there is evidence to support its decision. E.g., People ex rel. Thompson v. Property Tax Appeal Board (1974), 22 Ill. App.3d 316, 317 N.E.2d 121, cert. denied, appeal dismissed (1975), 422 U.S. 1002, 45 L.Ed.2d 666, 95 S.Ct. 2623.

• 2 Considering first whether the Board acted according to its statutory mandate, we note that it is an agency created by statute (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 120, par. 592.1 et seq.) to review property tax assessments made by local officials. (See Will County Board of Review v. Property Tax Appeal Board (1971), 48 Ill.2d 513, 515, 272 N.E.2d 32, 34.) As an administrative agency, it has authority to construe statutory provisions in making decisions and determinations. (Accord, Sugden v. Department of Public Welfare (1960), 20 Ill.2d 119, 169 N.E.2d 248.) The initial question before us is whether the Board correctly construed the statutory provisions at bar.

• 3-6 The primary benchmark in statutory construction has been thus set forth by our supreme court:

"The primary rule in the interpretation and construction of statutes is that the intention of the legislature should be ascertained and given effect. (People v. Price, 257 Ill. 587, 593.) The legislative intent should be sought primarily from the language used in the statute. Where the language of the act is certain and unambiguous the only legitimate function of the courts> is to enforce the law as enacted by the legislature. (Weiss Memorial Hospital v. Kroncke, 12 Ill.2d 98, 105; Belfield v. Coop, 8 Ill.2d 293, 307.) It is never proper for a court to depart from plain language by reading into a statute exceptions, limitations or conditions which conflict with the clearly expressed legislative ...

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