Appeal from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon.
Creed D. Tucker, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE WEBBER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
These consolidated cases raise the question of whether the General Assembly has the power, under the Illinois Constitution of 1970, to exempt from drainage-district assessment public highways, streets and alleys.
The objectors in each case are units of local government owning or controlling highways, streets or alleys which have been assessed by the respective drainage districts, respondents herein. Respondents are drainage districts organized under the Illinois Drainage Code (Code) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 42, par. 1-1 et seq.). Each district had in effect an annual maintenance assessment roll which was confirmed by the circuit court of Champaign County pursuant to the Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 42, par. 5-19).
The objectors filed separate objections to the annual maintenance assessments levied by the respective drainage districts for the fiscal year 1983. The objections were grounded upon the passage of Public Act No. 83-726, which amended sections 5-2 and 5-3 of the Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 42, pars. 5-2, 5-3) by specifically exempting public highways, streets and alleys from property subject to drainage district assessments. The objections requested that the circuit court of Champaign County order the public thoroughfares identified in the objections removed from the maintenance assessment rolls and sought refunds from the assessments paid under protest. The drainage districts responded, challenging the constitutionality of the statutory exemption.
The trial court ultimately entered orders sustaining the objections of the village of Ivesdale and the town of Tolono but overruling the objections of Parkland College unless that objector could show that the thoroughfares over which it exercised control were "public" within the meaning of the amended statute. It is from these orders that respondents appeal, reiterating their constitutional arguments. The objectors have not filed a brief in this court, but the Illinois Municipal League has been granted leave to file a brief as amicus curiae.
• 1 As an initial matter, we find that the Fountain Head Drainage District does not have standing to appeal from the trial court's order which overruled the objection of Parkland College. It is fundamental that a party must be aggrieved by the judgment of the trial court in order to appeal from that judgment. A party cannot complain of error which does not prejudice it, and a party who obtains by judgment all that has been requested cannot appeal from the judgment. (Material Service Corp. v. Department of Revenue (1983), 98 Ill.2d 382, 457 N.E.2d 9.) While the order in question "denied" the response of the Fountain Head Drainage District which challenged the constitutionality of the exemption, this statement was superfluous to the legal effect of the order, which was to overrule the objection. It is the judgment of the trial court, and not whatever else may have been said by it, which is on appeal to a court of review. (Rabus v. Calcari (1959), 16 Ill.2d 99, 156 N.E.2d 567.) We therefore dismiss the appeal of the Fountain Head Drainage District in General No. 4-85-0086.
Turning to the merits, respondents' primary argument is that the General Assembly has no power under the Illinois Constitution of 1970 to exempt any property from assessment for local improvement and that the amendments cited above should therefore be declared unconstitutional and the judgment of the trial court reversed. Respondents contend that section 6 of article IX of the 1970 Constitution does not authorize the exemption of property from assessment, as distinguished from exemption from general taxation. That section provides in relevant part:
"The General Assembly by law may exempt from taxation only the property of the State, units of local government and school districts and property used exclusively for agricultural and horticultural societies, and for school, religious, cemetery and charitable purposes." Ill. Const. 1970, art. IX, sec. 6.
Respondents' argument is premised on a relatively obscure line of early cases holding that exemptions from special assessment were not authorized by constitutional provisions permitting the General Assembly to exempt public, religious, and charitable property from general taxation. These holdings were based upon the perceived distinction between taxation and special assessment, as described in Carlyle v. Bartels (1924), 315 Ill. 271, 274, 146 N.E. 192, 193:
"The special assessments imposed are not for some general or public object, nor are they an exaction made for the purpose of carrying on the government directly or through the medium of municipal corporations. A special assessment is not a charge on the estate that lessens its value, as a tax does. The special assessments in question are imposed for a special purpose. The improvement is made for the convenience of a particular district, and the property there situated is required to bear the expense in the proportion in which it is benefited. The assessment is precisely in the ratio of the advantages accruing to the property in consequence of the improvement. It is but an equivalent or compensation for the increased value the property derives from the construction of the drainage system."
Based upon this distinction, early decisions struck down acts of the General Assembly which attempted to grant exemptions from special assessment for property that was otherwise eligible for exemption from general taxation. In City of Chicago v. Baptist Theological Union (1885), 115 Ill. 245, 2 N.E. 254, the court held that a provision in a seminary charter granted by the General Assembly which exempted seminary property from special assessment was invalid. Section 3 of article IX of the 1848 Constitution provided: "The property of the state and counties, both real and personal, and such other property as the general assembly may deem necessary for school, religious and charitable purposes, may be exempt from taxation." The court found that this provision did not authorize the exemption of property from special assessment, which was not embraced within the term "taxation" in the constitutional provision.
In South Park Commissioners v. Wood (1915), 270 Ill. 263, 110 N.E. 349, the court, relying on Baptist Theological Union, held that a statute creating a park commission was valid insofar as it exempted park property from general taxation, but invalid insofar as it exempted the property from special assessment. To the same effect is City of Rock Island v. Chippiannock Cemetery Association (1927), 328 Ill. 236, 159 N.E. 271.
On the other hand, some authority can be found to uphold the amendments at issue. In Higgins v. City of Chicago (1857), 18 Ill. 276, the court stated that taxation or special assessment for local improvements is merely a question of policy, and public property may be exempted from the levy of either. That case held, however, that special assessment against a public square was proper in the absence of any exemption expressed by statute or in the city charter. In West Chicago Park Commissioners v. City of Chicago (1894), 152 Ill. 392, 38 N.E. 697, it was held that the city had no jurisdiction to levy a special assessment against park district property within the city limits since the park district exercised plenary and exclusive jurisdiction as a municipal corporation over such property by statute, and that the burden of paying for improvements should be imposed upon the city as whole. Further, it is clear that the property of the United States government and the State of Illinois is exempt from special assessment, at least where there is no express statutory authority for such assessment. Fagan v. City of Chicago (1876), 84 Ill. 227.
All of the above cases were decided under prior constitutions, and no case has been found which addresses this issue under the 1970 Constitution. We find relevant section 8 of article VII, which provides in pertinent part: "Townships, school districts special districts and units, designated by law as units of local government, which exercise limited governmental powers or powers in respect to limited governmental subjects shall have only powers granted by law." The language restricting the powers of such units of government to those granted by law is new to the Illinois Constitution. (Compare Ill. Const. 1870, art. IX, sec. 9.) This provision incorporates the concept of Dillon's Rule whereby units of local government, including drainage districts, possess only those powers authorized by the General Assembly. (Ill. Ann. Stat., 1970 Const., art. VII, sec. 8, Constitutional Commentary, at 85 (Smith-Hurd 1971).) We think it obvious that, under section 9 of article IX, the General Assembly could in its discretion ...