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10/12/89 Girl Scouts of Du Page v. the Department of Revenue

October 12, 1989

GIRL SCOUTS OF DU PAGE COUNTY COUNCIL, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT

v.

THE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE (DU PAGE COUNTY BOARD OF REVIEW, DEFENDANT)



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, SECOND DISTRICT

545 N.E.2d 784, 189 Ill. App. 3d 858, 137 Ill. Dec. 131 1989.IL.1623

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County; the Hon. John W. Darrah, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE NASH delivered the opinion of the court. UNVERZAGT, P.J., and REINHARD, J., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE NASH

In this action brought by plaintiff, Girl Scouts of Du Page County Council, Inc., to set aside the decision of the Department of Revenue (the Department), the trial court affirmed the Department's denial of an exemption for property taxes pursuant to the Revenue Act of 1939 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 120, par. 500.7) for a parcel of plaintiff's property. On appeal, plaintiff contends that the court erred in affirming the Department's decision denying an exemption from real estate property taxes to the site manager's residence and surrounding property on the grounds the property was not used exclusively for charitable purposes. We affirm.

Plaintiff, Girl Scouts of Du Page County Council, is an Illinois not-for-profit corporation chartered by the Girl Scouts of America. The Girl Scouts own approximately 120 acres in Du Page County known as Camp Greene Wood consisting of 11 contiguous parcels of property upon which they maintain their Council Service Center, three cabins, a picnic pavilion, tent sites, storage buildings, a pond, nature trails, the site manager's facility, and other sites and buildings for the use of scouts and leaders.

The Girl Scouts have hired a site manager and require him to live on the premises to maintain its property and keep it secure. The site manager's facility is located on the main road into Camp Greene Wood, and all persons, troops, or groups are required to check in and out upon entering or leaving. This facility was constructed by the Girl Scouts in 1980 through donations and volunteer labor and is a two-story building; it has an upper floor containing three bedrooms, 1 1/2 baths, a kitchen, dining room, and living room. The site manager uses the dining room area as his office, in which he keeps his desk and records, key box, and radio base station. The radio is left on at all times when users are in camp. The basement contains a garage, and one half of the basement is used to store such items as the Girl Scout truck, tractor, cross-country skis, and minor camping equipment.

The Girl Scouts pay for the telephone and for maintenance of the facility, and the site manager pays for electricity and heat. The Girl Scouts have made living in the facility a condition of the site manager's employment, and he pays no rent. In 1986, the tax year for which the Department denied tax exemption to a portion of the site manager's facility, the site manager lived there with his mother.

The job duties of the site manager include patrolling the camp sites, repairing equipment, dispensing equipment and keys, maintaining lawn care, removing snow, checking the camp's perimeter fence, and checking in groups using the camp. Three of the camp buildings have a security system which directly transmits an alarm to an outside security company. The site manager is also responsible for engaging and disengaging these systems when necessary. He is on call 24 hours a day on the five days a week that he works and is the person all campers are instructed to contact in case of an emergency. On the site manager's days off, a neighbor who lives across the street from the camp performs the job duties. The site manager does not direct camp programming or activities and is not involved in the camp leadership.

In 1987, the Department of Revenue issued a tax exemption certificate for Camp Greene Wood for 1986 and subsequent years, but denied an exemption from property taxes for the parcel of property which included the site manager's facility because it was not used exclusively for charitable purposes. The Girl Scouts petitioned for administrative review, after which the Department modified its total denial of exemption and exempted from real estate taxes for 1986 all portions of Camp Greene Wood except the ground on which the site manager's residence is located, one-half of the lower level of the residence, and all of the upper level of the residence, except the office area. In April 1988, the Girl Scouts sought relief under the Administrative Review Law (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 110, par. 3-101 et seq.) in the circuit court which resulted in a judgment affirming denial of the exemption, from which they appeal.

As the relevant facts are undisputed, whether the property is exempt is a question of law (Weslin Properties, Inc. v. Department of Revenue (1987), 157 Ill. App. 3d 580, 583, 510 N.E.2d 564) and whether it is entitled to exemption depends solely upon an application of the appropriate legal standard to the undisputed facts. Illinois Central Gulf R.R. Co. v. Department of Local Government Affairs (1983), 95 Ill. 2d 111, 129, 447 N.E.2d 315.

All property is subject to taxation unless specifically exempted by statute. (Benedictine Sisters of the Sacred Heart v. Department of Revenue (1987), 155 Ill. App. 3d 325, 327, 508 N.E.2d 470.) The Illinois Constitution 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 ...


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