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Bd. of Comm'rs v. County of Du Page

OPINION FILED JUNE 30, 1982.

THE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS OF THE WOOD DALE PUBLIC LIBRARY DISTRICT ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,

v.

THE COUNTY OF DU PAGE ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Du Page County; the Hon. JOHN S. TESCHNER, Judge, presiding.

PRESIDING JUSTICE SEIDENFELD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Who is entitled to the interest earned on tax moneys collected by the county treasurer acting as ex officio county collector prior to distribution of the principal to the units of local government levying the taxes is the question before us.

The action was brought by the Wood Dale Public Library District and its commissioners on its own relation and purportedly on behalf of all units of local government in Du Page County (District). The complaint alleged that the county had retained interest earned on collected tax money in violation of Illinois statutory and constitutional law. The County of Du Page, its commissioners and its treasurer and ex officio county collector (County) moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a cause of action, and the court granted the motion.

The District appeals, arguing that the distribution of the earnings at issue is controlled by the act relating to investments of public agencies (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 85, pars. 901, 902) (Public Funds Act), requiring the county to distribute the earnings pro rata to the units of local government. It bases its argument on principles of statutory construction and on its contention that allowing the county to retain the earnings on funds belonging to other units of local government under the act relating to county treasurers (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 36, par. 22.1) (Treasurers Act) would violate article VII, section 9(a), of the 1970 Illinois Constitution, the equal protection clauses of the United States and Illinois constitutions, and the principle of uniformity of taxation.

The Treasurers Act provides as pertinent:

"The term `county moneys' shall include all moneys to whomsoever belonging, received by or in possession or control of the incumbent of the office of county treasurer when acting as such or in any other official capacity incident to his incumbency of the office of county treasurer." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 36, par. 17.

"All earnings accruing on any investments or deposits made by the County Treasurer whether acting as such or as County Collector, of county monies as in this Act is defined, shall be credited to and paid into the County Treasury for the benefit of the county corporate fund to be used for county purposes, except where by specific statutory provisions such earnings are directed to be credited to and paid to a particular fund." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 36, par. 22.1.

The Public Funds Act provides as pertinent:

"The words `public funds', as used in this Act, mean current operating funds, special funds, interest and sinking funds, and funds of any kind or character belonging to or in the custody of any public agency.

The words `public agency', as used in this Act, mean the State of Illinois, the various counties, townships, cities, towns, villages, school districts, special road districts, public water supply districts, fire protection districts, drainage districts, levee districts, sewer districts, housing authorities, and all other political corporations or subdivisions of the State of Illinois, now or hereafter created, whether herein specifically mentioned or not." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 85, par. 901.

"* * * All earnings accruing on any investments or deposits made pursuant to the provisions of this Act shall be credited to the public agency by or for which such investments or deposits were made, except where by specific statutory provisions such earnings are directed to be credited to and paid to a particular fund." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 85, par. 902.

The District argues that the Illinois Supreme Court, in Town of City of Peoria v. O'Connor (1981), 85 Ill.2d 195, has decided that the Public Funds Act is applicable to investments of tax funds held by a collecting officer before distribution, and that any income from these funds should be credited to the public agency for which the investments were made. In O'Connor, the court held that the township collector's role as collector and custodian of tax funds belonging to other taxing units did not entitle the township to the income from its investment of these funds. (85 Ill.2d 195, 207.) However, O'Connor has not addressed the precise issue before us since the township was not investing funds according to the Treasurers Act and thus did not rely on a grant of authority from a statute apparently in conflict with the Public Funds Act.

Both acts appear to be in pari materia as they purport to deal with the same subject matter (United States Steel Corp. v. Pollution Control Board (1978), 64 Ill. App.3d 34, 43), but it is difficult to reconcile them by familiar rules of statutory construction. The basic rule that the legislative intent should be given effect, primarily from the language of the statute (see, e.g., Town of City of Peoria v. O'Connor (1981), 85 Ill.2d 195, 203) is of limited aid in determining which act applies. The County argues that section 2 of the Public Funds Act contains the proviso "except where by specific statutory provisions such earnings are directed to be credited to and paid to a particular fund" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 85, par. 902), and contends that section 6.1 of the Treasurers Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 36, par. 22.1) is such a provision. However, the use of the phrase "particular fund" elsewhere in the two statutes tends to support the District's argument that the exception is basically one of "proper accounting" designed to insure that interest on principal from a special fund as opposed to the general fund of a public agency goes to the special fund, where mandated. Sections 3 and 4 of the Public Funds Act refer to "particular fund[s]" of a public agency, apparently to distinguish such funds from general agency funds. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 85, pars. 903, 904.) It should also be noted that section 6.1 of the Treasurers Act has a similar exception clause to that of the Public Funds Act. Either interpretation appears reasonable; the exception clause in each statute could be read simply as providing that funds be invested as provided therein in the absence of a more specific statutory provision elsewhere. This interpretation is strengthened by the fact that each exception clause uses the phrase "particular fund" rather than "special fund."

It is also a general rule that specific statutory provisions control over more general ones (see, e.g., Environmental Protection Agency v. Pollution Control Board (1981), 86 Ill.2d 390, 403). But which is more specific? The District argues that the Treasurers Act is meant to apply only to county funds and thus that the Public Funds Act which applies to tax money belonging to other units is the more specific; the County argues on the basis of the language of the Treasurers Act that that act deals only with those moneys held specifically by the county treasurer while acting as county collector, whereas the Public Funds Act deals with the funds of public agencies generally. To reconcile these arguments ...


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