Appeal from Circuit Court of McLean County. No. 93MR63. Honorable Luther H. Dearborn, Judge Presiding.
As Corrected November 22, 1994. Petition for Leave to Appeal Denied February 1, 1995.
Justices: Honorable John T. McCULLOUGH, P.j., Honorable Carl A. Lund, J., Honorable Frederick S. Green, J.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mccullough
PRESIDING JUSTICE MCCULLOUGH delivered the opinion of the court:
Defendants Charles and Nancy Kahle, together with their 4 1/2-year-old son, are the only residents on a 160-acre farm owned by a family partnership in which all the Kahle family defendants have an interest. The Kahle defendants filed a petition to detach the 160 acres from the Chenoa Community Unit School District No. 9 (Chenoa district) and annex it to the bordering Lexington Community Unit School District No. 7 (Lexington district). Following a hearing on the petition, the Regional Board of School Trustees of McLean and De Witt Counties (Regional Board) granted the petition and the circuit court, in administrative review, affirmed. Plaintiff Board of Education of Chenoa Community Unit School District No. 9 appeals, alleging the Regional Board was precluded from granting the petition by section 7-4(e) of the School Code (105 ILCS 5/7-4(e) (West 1992)), and the decision was against the manifest weight of the evidence. For the reasons which follow, we reverse.
At the hearing on the petition, the superintendent of Chenoa district testified the district included a portion, but not all, of four separate townships. Based on the 1990 census figures, the superintendent stated that even if no persons resided on those portions of the townships which were not within Chenoa district, the maximum population was 3,406 and there had been no significant increase since the 1990 census. He estimated that based on his review of census data, mailing lists, and voter registration rolls, the approximate population of Chenoa district was 3,200. The total equalized assessed valuation of the district was over $23 million.
Section 7-4 of the School Code (105 ILCS 5/7-4 (West 1992)) provides:
"Requirements for granting petitions.
No petition shall be granted under Sections 7-1 or 7-2 of this Act:
(b) Unless after granting the petition any community unit district, community consolidated district, elementary district or high school district created shall have a population of at least2,000 and an equalized assessed valuation of at least $6,000,000 based upon the last value as equalized by the Department of Revenue as of the date of filing of the petition.
(e) If after the change of boundaries any district has less population or equalized assessed valuation than required for the creation of a district of like type."
Chenoa district is a community unit school district maintaining grades 1 through 12. The creation of community unit school districts is governed by section 11A-2(1) of the School Code, which provides:
"Any contiguous and compact territory of at least $12,000,000 equalized assessed valuation and having a population of not less than 4,000 and not more than 500,000, no part of which is included within any community unit school district, or other unit district, may be organized into a community unit school district as provided in this Article." 105 ILCS 5/11A-2(1) (West 1992).
Plaintiff argues that the plain and ordinary meaning of section 7-4(e) of the School Code requires denial of a detachment petition when the population of the detaching district is below that which is required for creation of a district of like type, in this case a community unit school district with a minimum population requirement of 4,000, pursuant to section 11A-2 of the School Code. Plaintiff contends that the establishment of minimum standards for population size and assessed valuation reflects an intent by the General Assembly to prohibit boundary changes which would impair the viability of smaller districts. Therefore, since Chenoa district is a community unit ...