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Proviso Twp. High School Dist. v. Hynes

OPINION FILED NOVEMBER 8, 1982.

PROVISO TOWNSHIP HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 209 ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES AND CROSS-APPELLANTS,

v.

THOMAS C. HYNES, ASSESSOR OF COOK COUNTY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS AND CROSS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. James C. Murray, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE O'CONNOR DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is an appeal by defendants, Thomas C. Hynes, Edward J. Rosewell and Stanley T. Kusper, Jr., respectively the assessor, treasurer and collector, and clerk of Cook County, Illinois, and a cross-appeal by plaintiffs, Proviso Township High School District No. 209 and other school districts of Cook County, Illinois, from an order entered by the circuit court of Cook County upon remand by the Supreme Court of Illinois.

In April 1980, plaintiff school districts brought suit for declaratory and other relief, challenging the constitutionality of the homestead exemption created by section 19.23-1a of the Revenue Act of 1939, as amended (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 120, par. 500.23-1a). That exemption, also referred to as the "Hynes exemption" or the general homestead exemption, was originally applied to 1978 real estate taxes. Plaintiffs' suit asked no relief for 1978. Plaintiffs sought to enjoin defendants from applying the exemption to bills for the second installment of the 1979 real estate taxes, which were due in July 1980.

The trial court heard the case on the pleadings, stipulation and evidence depositions. The facts were largely uncontested. It was undisputed that for the 1978 real estate taxes the defendant taxing officials had granted the homestead exemption to all residential properties in the lowest assessment classification, without regard to whether the owner occupied the property as his principal dwelling place. It was further stipulated that the defendants, in accordance with the statute, intended to administer the homestead exemption for the 1979 taxes on the same basis as used in 1978. The parties also stipulated that the defendants do not maintain records which indicate the ownership or occupancy of all units or parcels within the county.

On June 19, 1980, the trial court held the homestead exemption unconstitutional insofar as it was not restricted to owner-occupied residential property. An appeal was taken by defendants to the supreme court.

After oral argument in that court and pending the issuance of its opinion, that court, on August 4, 1980, ordered:

"2. The defendants are authorized to commence the extension, billing and collection of the second installments of the Real Estate Taxes for Tax Year 1979, and to administer the General Homestead Exemption provided for by Sec. 19.23-1a of the Revenue Act of 1939, as amended, according to the procedures used for Tax Year 1978, without gathering information indicating the ownership or occupancy of the residential properties which will receive the exemption.

3. The Court retains complete jurisdiction of this cause, and in the event the position of the plaintiffs is ultimately sustained the Court will fashion appropriate relief."

Pursuant to that order, defendants sent out the bills for the second installment of the 1979 real estate taxes, allowing the general homestead exemption as they had in 1978.

On November 13, 1980, the supreme court handed down its opinion. It held that no annual homestead exemption could be granted by defendants unless the property was occupied by the owner as his principal dwelling place and found that the exemption had been improperly granted insofar as that requirement was not met. Proviso Township High School District No. 209 v. Hynes (1980), 84 Ill.2d 229, 417 N.E.2d 1290.

The court then said (84 Ill.2d 229, 243):

"The judgment of the circuit court also requires that before issuing tax bills containing the homestead exemption `the defendants have information upon which to establish that the owner or owners reside therein as his or their principal dwelling place.' The last paragraph of section 19.23-1a authorizes a number of ways in which eligibility to receive the exemption may be determined, but provides that the determination be made in accordance with guidelines established by the Department of Revenue. The parties advise us that the Department has not yet established any such guidelines. Until the Department has done so, the defendants may use any of the methods authorized by the section to ascertain whether property is owner-occupied."

As to the ways to determine eligibility, the last paragraph of section 19.23-1a states:

"In lieu of procedures for exemptions required elsewhere in this Act, the assessor, county assessor, supervisor of assessments or board of assessors may determine the eligibility of residential property to receive the homestead exemption provided by this Section by application, visual inspection, questionnaire or other reasonable methods. Such determination shall be made in accordance with guidelines established by the Department of Revenue." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 120, par. 500.23-1a.)

The court then concluded (84 Ill.2d 229, 244):

"Pursuant to our interim order of August 4, referred to previously, bills for the second installment of taxes for the year 1979 allowing the exemption without regard to owner-occupancy have already been sent out, and some taxpayers allowed the exemption will have paid a lesser amount in taxes than that for which they would be liable without the exemption. In those cases in which the defendants seek to bill any taxpayers for a deficiency, no bill should be sent out unless the defendants have information upon which to establish that the owner or owners do not reside on the property in question as his or their principal dwelling place.

The defendants represent that there are some 1 million parcels potentially eligible for the homestead exemption, and that they do not maintain records which show the ownership and occupancy of all these parcels. To expedite the collection of taxes by the defendants, and in the interest of sound judicial administration, we remand this cause to the circuit court for such further proceedings and orders as may be necessary to implement our decision with regard to the billing and collection of taxes for both the years 1979 and 1980."

The court's mandate issued the same date remanded the cause to the circuit court of Cook County "for such further proceedings and orders as may be necessary to implement our decision with regard to the billing and ...


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