Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. Jack
Hoogasian, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE LINDBERG DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
This is an appeal from judgments in cases consolidated in the circuit court of Lake County ordering refunds to taxpayers who made payment of their 1980 real estate taxes under protest and denying the taxpayers' request for interest on those refunds.
The central issue presented on appeal is whether the publication by the Lake County Board of Review (Board) gave proper notice to these taxpayer-objectors that their 1980 assessed valuations would be increased by the amount of the 1979 equalization factors.
William Apostalakis and certain other taxpayers in Cuba, Ela, Vernon and West Deerfield townships in Lake County paid their real estate taxes for the year 1980 under protest contending that the 1980 assessments were invalid as to their properties because no proper notice was given of an increase in their assessments due to the application of the 1979 equalization factors as adopted by the Board for the 1979 tax year. The county collector (Collector) made application for judgment against the protesting taxpayers who filed objections to the application. The objectors and the Collector each filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court allowed the Collector's motion, denied that of the objectors, and entered judgment for the Collector. Upon the objectors' motion for reconsideration, the trial court vacated its earlier order and gave judgment to the objectors for the amount protested, but denied their request for interest on those refunds. The Collector appeals from this order. The objectors filed a cross-appeal from the trial court's denial of interest on their refunds.
At the trial court level, the parties stipulated to the following facts. For the 1979 tax year, the Board published notice of "proposed" multipliers to be applied in Cuba (1.1719), Ela (1.1508), West Deerfield (1.1371) and Vernon (1.0753) townships typically as follows:
"Under powers granted to Boards of Review under section 108(5), of the Revenue Act of 1939, as amended [citation], the 1979 Lake County Board of Review contemplates the following action:
Ela Township — Raise the value of all real estate subject to taxation * * * in Ela Township, by application of a factor of 1.1508 to all such property * * *."
Following a hearing on each proposed township equalization factor, the Board published final notice listing the changes in the assessment of real property for 1979. The proposed figures were adopted for Ela, Cuba, and West Deerfield townships but the Board increased the equalization factor for Vernon from 1.0753 to 1.1075.
The parties agreed that the 1980 tax year was a nonquadrennial year for the various townships. Prior to the delivery of the 1980 tax books to the township assessors, the assessed valuations for the 1979 tax year were increased by the amount of the 1979 multiplier. Further, the list published by the Lake County assessor of changes made in the 1980 assessed valuations pursuant to the requirements of section 103 of the Revenue Act of 1939 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 120, par. 584) did not include the properties of these objectors. In May of 1981, the Board published notice of a proposed change in the assessment of real property for the year 1980 as modified by the 1980 equalization factor. The notice of changes published for the 1980 tax year did not include the properties of these objectors and did not contain a general statement that the assessed valuations of the objectors' properties had been increased from the preceding year by the percentage of the 1979 equalization factor.
The sole issue presented by the Collector on appeal and to the trial court was whether the objectors had been given proper notice regarding their initial, preequalization, 1980 assessment. More specifically the question is whether the publication of the 1979 equalization factors constituted notice for their initial 1980 assessments to be set at the same value as the 1979 equalized assessment rather than the 1979 initial assessment.
Section 108(5) of the Revenue Act of 1939 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 120, par. 589(5)) permits boards of review to increase, reduce or otherwise adjust the assessments of any class of property. However, no assessment shall be increased until the Board has given notice by publication to the owners of the property affected of the proposed increase and an opportunity to be heard within 20 days after the date of publication.
While personal notice of the application of equalization factors is not required by statute (Commonwealth Edison Co. v. Tucker (1980), 86 Ill. App.3d 630, 634, 408 N.E.2d 364) *fn1, the notice of hearing requirements prescribed in section 108(5) have been found to be for the benefit and protection of the taxpayers' rights and are therefore mandatory and require strict and timely compliance. In re Application of McHenry County Collector (1980), 91 Ill. App.3d 49, 52, 414 N.E.2d 229, citing Andrews v. Foxworthy (1978), 71 Ill.2d 13, 19-20, 373 N.E.2d 1332.
The issue of compliance with the notice and hearing requirements under section 108(5) was addressed by this court in In re Application of McHenry County Collector. There, protesting taxpayers objected to the application of a 1975 Board of Review equalization factor to their 1978 tax assessment. The 1975 tax year notice of the proposed increase in the equalization factor specifically stated it as being "for the tax year 1975 payable in 1976." In 1977, the Board applied the same multipliers to the 1978 assessments. The objectors paid the resulting 1978 tax under protest contending that their assessed valuations had been increased without notice to them. The trial court gave judgment for the objectors and this court affirmed. The court found the notice misleading in referring only to the 1975 tax year of the proposed increase in the equalization factor and concluded that the increase could not be extended through the remaining years of the quadrennial period on the basis of that specific notice. Any tax resulting from the increase in assessment which had been made without complying with section 108(5), the court held, was invalid. In re Application of McHenry County Collector (1980), 91 Ill. App.3d 49, 52-53, 414 N.E.2d 229.
A similar result obtains here. In this case the 1978 assessment was increased by the 1979 equalization factor and the resulting 1979 equalized assessment was increased by the 1980 equalization factor to arrive at the contested 1980 equalized assessment. Such stairstep escalation of ...