Before we consider the plaintiff's claims of error, we must first address the defendant's contention that the circuit court did not have jurisdiction to hear this action, as the claim properly is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Court of Claims. Subject matter jurisdiction, of course, cannot be waived by the parties. (Smith v. Jones (1986), 113 Ill. 2d 126.) The defendant argues that under our prevailing sovereign immunity, lawsuits against the State and its agencies and officers acting under their lawful authority cannot be maintained. Too, the defendant says that a party seeking to enforce a claim for money allegedly owed by the State must assert the claim in the Court of Claims. The plaintiff, however, denies that the Court of Claims is the forum for this dispute. The circuit court had jurisdiction, the plaintiff says, because its action calls for a declaratory judgment of whether a State officer has exceeded his authority, which requires construction of the Mandates Act by the circuit court.
SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS
THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT NO.
515 N.E.2d 1244, 118 Ill. 2d 465, 113 Ill. Dec. 937 1987.IL.1736
Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. Arthur L. Dunne, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE WARD delivered the opinion of the court. JUSTICE CUNNINGHAM took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE WARD
The plaintiff, the Board of Trustees of Community College District No. 508 (the College), brought an action in the circuit court of Cook County seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the Comptroller of the State of Illinois, Roland W. Burris, and the Director of the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs, Michael T. Woelffer (the Director). The plaintiff, which operates the City Colleges of Chicago, alleged that it was entitled to reimbursement under the State Mandates Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 85, par. 2201 et seq.) for funds it had expended in fiscal years 1982 and 1983 for veterans' scholarships to students enrolled in its community colleges. During those years, the General Assembly had not appropriated sufficient funds to cover the full costs of the scholarship program. The plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that defendant Roland W. Burris, in his capacity as Comptroller of the State (Comptroller), be ordered to reimburse the College for its expenditures for veterans' scholarships for 1982 and 1983 or, alternatively, that the Director be required to seek a supplemental appropriation in the General Assembly for the College's reimbursement.
Qualified Illinois veterans are eligible for scholarships to attend State colleges (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 126 1/2, par. 69.1 (repealed and now Ill. Rev. Stat., 1986 Supp., ch. 122, par. 30-15.7d)), and the costs of the program prior to 1982 had been borne by the State. In the fiscal year 1982, the General Assembly's appropriations covered only 50% of the College's costs of the veterans' scholarship program and only 56% of the program's costs in the fiscal year 1983. Because the State did not appropriate sufficient funds for the scholarship program, the College alleges that it had to expend $450,681.58 from local revenue in 1982 and $308,033.79 in 1983 to fund the scholarships that had been awarded by the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs to students of the College.
The plaintiff alleged that it was entitled to reimbursement for these expenses under the State Mandates Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 85, par. 2201 et seq.) (the Act). The Act requires the General Assembly to reimburse units of local government for the added costs of certain types of State-mandated expenditures and, if State reimbursement is not provided, it relieves local governments of the obligation to implement such mandates. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 85, pars. 2206, 2208.) The College contended that the underappropriation of funds to support the scholarship program amounted to a "service mandate" as defined in the Act and that the College was thus entitled to reimbursement of the monies it spent on the program in fiscal years 1982 and 1983.
Under section 8(c) of the Act, a local government that contends it is entitled to reimbursement must submit a claim for the costs of implementing a State mandate to one of three State agencies, with community colleges required to submit claims to the Illinois Community College Board (the ICCB). (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 85, par. 2208(c).) The College, following these provisions of the Act, submitted a claim to the ICCB for $450,681.58, the amount it paid from local revenues for veterans' scholarships in the 1982 fiscal year, and for $308,033.79, the amount it paid for the scholarships in the 1983 fiscal year. The ICCB approved both claims and asked the Comptroller to make payment. The
Comptroller refused to pay on the ground that there was no appropriation for the amount claimed. The plaintiff then requested that the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs notify the General Assembly of the College's costs in order that supplemental appropriations might be made (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 85, par. 2208(d)), but the Director of the Department refused.
The plaintiff's circuit court action against the Comptroller and the Director sought a declaratory judgment that the College was entitled to reimbursement under the Act and injunctive relief that would have required the Comptroller to reimburse the College. Alternatively, the College sought a declaratory judgment that the Director is required under the Mandates Act to notify the General Assembly of the necessity of a supplemental appropriation to cover the College's expenses for the scholarships and an injunction requiring the Director to seek supplemental appropriations from the General Assembly. The circuit court dismissed the College's complaint as to the Comptroller without prejudice to the plaintiff's seeking relief in the Court of Claims. The circuit court, on motions by both the plaintiff and the Director for summary judgment, held: the Mandates Act applies to supplemental fiscal acts concerning the veterans' scholarship program; the Director of the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs has a duty to notify the General Assembly of the additional and unsatisfied costs; the payment of at least 50% of the costs satisfied the obligation under the Act; the Comptroller was not required to pay claims where sufficient funds had not been appropriated; and the plaintiff was not required to appeal from the decision of the ICCB to the Mandates Board of Appeals, the reviewing body to which appeals may be brought from adverse decisions of the ICCB (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 85, par. 2208(d)).
The plaintiff appealed the circuit court's decision, and the Director cross-appealed. The appellate court affirmed in part and reversed in part. (144 Ill. App. 3d 867.) The appellate court affirmed the circuit court's Conclusion that there was no need for the College to appeal the decision of the ICCB to the Mandates Board of Appeals and that the Comptroller is not required to release funds without an appropriation by the legislature. The appellate court reversed the court's judgment that the Mandates Act applies to supplemental fiscal acts that fund the veterans' scholarship program and that the Director of the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs has a duty to ...