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05/07/87 Stephen J. Davis Et Al., v. the Regional Board of

May 7, 1987

STEPHEN J. DAVIS ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES

v.

THE REGIONAL BOARD OF SCHOOL TRUSTEES OF MADISON COUNTY, WORDEN UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 16 ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIFTH DISTRICT

507 N.E.2d 1352, 155 Ill. App. 3d 185, 108 Ill. Dec. 11 1987.IL.599

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County; the Hon. Lola Maddox, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE HARRISON delivered the opinion of the court. KARNS, P.J., and WELCH, J., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE HARRISON

Plaintiffs, Stephen J. Davis, Mary J. Davis, William H. Eilert, and Otto Blume, filed a petition with the regional board of school trustees of Madison County to have a 160-acre tract of land detached from Worden Unit School District No.16 (the Worden District) in Madison County and annexed to Staunton Community Unit School District No.6 (the Staunton District) in Madison and Macoupin counties. The Madison County regional board denied the petition following a hearing, and the regional board of school trustees of Macoupin County concurred. (See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 122, par. 7-2.) Upon administrative review in the circuit court of Madison County (see Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 122, par. 7-7), the decision of the Madison County regional board was reversed, and the detachment petition was granted. This appeal followed. We affirm.

The standards to be considered by a regional board in determining whether to permit a transfer of land from one school district to another are set forth in section 7-6 of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 122, par. 7-6), which provides:

"The . . . board of school trustees shall hear evidence as to the school needs and conditions of the territory in the area within and adjacent thereto and as to the ability of the districts affected to meet the standards of recognition as prescribed by the State Board of Education, and shall take into consideration the division of funds and assets which will result from the change in boundaries and shall determine whether it is to the best interests of the schools of the area and the educational welfare of the pupils that such change in boundaries be granted . . .."

Our supreme court has held that a detachment petition should be granted only where the benefit to the annexing district and the detachment area clearly outweighs the detriment resulting to the detaching district and the surrounding community as a whole. (Oakdale Community Consolidated School District No.1 v. County Board of School Trustees (1957), 12 Ill. 2d 190, 193-94, 145 N.E.2d 736; Board of Education v. Regional Board of School Trustees (1982), 89 Ill. 2d 392, 397, 433 N.E.2d 240, 243.) It is for regional boards to make findings of fact and to weigh the relevant factors to determine the action best serving the entire education system. (89 Ill. 2d 392, 396, 433 N.E.2d 240, 242.) As the Madison County regional board correctly observes, the findings of a regional board on questions of fact are prima facie true and correct, and a court may not reweigh evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the board. (89 Ill. 2d 392, 396-97, 433 N.E.2d 240, 242.) Nevertheless:

"The rule which accords a prima facie validity to administrative decisions does not relieve a court of the important duty to examine the evidence in an impartial manner and to set aside an order which is unsupported in fact. . . . Our Administrative Review Act does not require judicial recognition of an order which is against the manifest weight of the evidence, 'nor does the law allow a stamp of approval to be placed on the findings of an administrative agency merely because such agency heard the witnesses and made the requisite findings.' [Citation.]" Oakdale Community Consolidated School District No. 1 v. County Board of School Trustees of Randolph County (1957), 12 Ill. 2d 190, 195, 145 N.E.2d 736.

The evidence in this case showed that the area which plaintiffs seek to have detached from the Worden District (the detachment area) consists of two 40-acre parcels and a third parcel measuring 80 acres. One of the 40-acre parcels is owned by plaintiff William Eilert and the other by plaintiffs Stephen and Mary Davis. The 80-acre parcel was purchased by the Davises from plaintiff Otto Blume under a contract for deed. Together these three parcels form a square, 160-acre block which is contiguous with the Staunton District.

The Davises' house is the only one in the detachment area, and they are its only two registered voters. The Davises have three children: Sam Henry, born on July 13, 1974; Katie Jane, born on December 3, 1977; and Stephen James, born on May 8, 1980. At the time of the hearing before the Madison County regional board, Sam Henry was in fourth grade, Katie Jane was in kindergarten, and Stephen James had yet to begin school. Neither of the Davises' two school-age children was enrolled in the Worden District. Rather, they both attended a Lutheran school in Hamel, Illinois.

On this appeal, the Madison County regional board contends that allowing the detachment will cause substantial financial injury to the Worden District. We disagree. The Worden District's annual receipts total $471,753. The bulk of this sum, $337,042, is derived from State aid paid to the district based on its average daily student attendance. The remainder, $134,711, comes from property taxes. Because the Davises' children are not enrolled in the district, its State aid payments would be completely unaffected by the detachment. The only loss would be the $1,674.37 in property taxes which the detachment area pays. Although the Worden District is levying property taxes at the maximum rate allowed by law and could not make up this amount through a tax increase, the loss, a mere .3% of the district's total receipts, is de minimus. (See Board of Education v. Regional Board of School Trustees (1981), 98 Ill. App. 3d 599, 605, 424 N.E.2d 808, 813; Burnett v. Massac Community Unit School District No.1 (1981), 96 Ill. App. 3d 616, 622, 421 N.E.2d 941, 946.) In addition, the record shows that even this minimal decrease in tax revenue will be offset, at least in part, by a reduction in the district's bonded indebtedness. See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 122, par. 7-14.

The Madison County regional board suggests that the amount of the revenue loss, standing alone, is not dispositive, but must be considered in the context of the Worden District's admittedly modest resources. In support of this proposition, it cites Board of Education v. Regional Board of School Trustees (1982), 89 Ill. 2d 392, 401, 433 N.E.2d 240, 244, where our supreme court held that "[w]hether a detaching district will remain financially healthy and be able to meet the statutory standards for recognition is more important than the size of the loss of tax revenues and assessed valuation the district must bear." In this case, however, we can find no evidence tending to show that the economic changes set forth ...


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