Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 13th Judicial Circuit La Salle County, Illinois. No. 95-MR-89. Honorable Cynthia M. Raccuglia, Judge, Presiding.
Released for Publication February 21, 1997.
Present - Honorable Tom M. Lytton, Presiding Justice, Honorable William E. Holdridge, Justice, Honorable Kent Slater, Justice. Justice Lytton delivered the opinion of the court: Holdridge, J., concurs and Slater, J., specially concurs.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lytton
PRESIDING JUSTICE LYTTON delivered the opinion of the court:
The plaintiffs filed a petition seeking detachment from Oglesby School District No. 125 (Oglesby) and annexation to Peru Elementary School District No. 124 (Peru) fourteen weeks after the Regional Board of School Trustees of the La Salle County Educational Region (Board) denied a similar petition. The Board denied the second petition, and the petitioners appeal. We affirm.
John F. Kennedy School District No. 129 was dissolved in 1992, and the land in the district was annexed to Oglesby. A number of the affected landowners objected to this change and filed a petition seeking annexation to Peru. The Board denied this petition on August 31, 1994.
On December 5, 1994, 27 of the 44 signers of the original petition signed a second petition seeking detachment from Oglesby and annexation to Peru. This petition included approximately 50% less land than the first petition and would have reduced the assessed valuation of the land in Oglesby by about half compared to the first petition. The second petition affected three students, while the first petition affected four. In all other relevant respects, the petitions were identical.
The parties stipulated that evidence from the first hearing could be considered in the second proceeding. The only additional evidence offered at the second hearing was a certified copy of the voter list for the revised detachment area, the testimony of Charles W. Helmig, one of the petitioners, and the deposition testimony of Dr. James Boyle, the superintendent of Oglesby. After reviewing all of the evidence, the Board denied the second petition. The petitioners appealed to the circuit court, which affirmed the Board's decision.
Before we may reach the merits of this case, we must consider whether the Board had jurisdiction over the second petition. Section 7-8 of the School Code (105 ILCS 5/7-8 (West 1994)) generally prohibits the filing of a petition for detachment within two years after the final denial of a similar petition. The statute states,
"No territory, nor any part thereof, which is involved in any proceeding to change the boundaries of a school district by detachment from or annexation to such school district of such territory, and which is not so detached nor annexed, shall be again involved in proceedings to change the boundaries of such school district for at least two years after final determination of such first proceeding unless during that 2 year period a petition filed is substantially different than any other previously filed petition during the previous 2 years ***." (Emphasis added.)
In this case, the Board denied the first petition on August 31, 1994, and the petitioners filed the second petition on December 5, 1994. Thus, the second petition was barred by statute unless it was "substantially different" from the petitioners' first request. See 105 ILCS 5/7-8.
In Board of Education of Community Unit School District No. 337 v. Board of Education of Community Unit School District No. 338, 269 Ill. App. 3d 1020, 1027, 647 N.E.2d 1019, 1024, 207 Ill. Dec. 526 (1995), this court stated that the legislature intended the statutory exception for "substantially different" petitions to be construed consistent with its intent to prevent harassment of parties affected by the petitions. We found no potential for harassment in that case because the same school districts were not involved in both petitions. Board of Education, 269 Ill. App. 3d at 1028, 647 N.E.2d at 1025.
We refused to apply a bright-line test to determine when substantial quantitative differences exist between districts or to delineate the precise combination of quantitative and qualitative factors necessary to qualify for this exception. Board of Education, 269 Ill. App. 3d at 1028, 647 N.E.2d at 1025. Quantitative factors are those that involve numerical or statistical differences between the petitions, such as changes in land area, assessed valuations and property taxes revenues, other financial effects on the districts and the number of petitioners and students affected. Qualitative considerations include the identity of the petitioners and the districts, the nature of the ...