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Albee v. Soat

August 22, 2000


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jo Daviess County. No. 97--TX--28 Honorable William A. Kelly, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Galasso

In 1995, plaintiffs, David and Lynn Albee, purchased a parcel of real estate commonly known as 320 Elk Street, Galena, Illinois. In the 1995 quadrennial assessment, the subject property was assessed at $41,673. For the 1996 tax year, the assessed valuation of the subject property was increased to $65,162. Plaintiffs initially filed an objection with the Jo Daviess County Board of Review, which subsequently denied the objection. On November 12, 1997, plaintiffs filed a 1996 tax objection complaint against Carol A. Soat, Jo Daviess County treasurer and ex officio county collector. Therein, they alleged that the 1996 assessment was excessive and incorrect, that the valuation was made without statutory authority, and that Jo Daviess County had "wholly failed, neglected and/or refused to prepare and maintain tax maps contrary to and in violation of 35 ILCS 200/9--35." Plaintiffs' complaint sought a determination that the 1996 assessment and the 1996 property taxes were "excessive, incorrect, illegal and void." The complaint further sought a determination of the proper amount of the 1996 assessment and the appropriate amount of property taxes for the 1996 tax year. Finally, plaintiffs asked for an order directing defendant to refund any taxes "adjudged by the Court to be excessive, illegal, incorrect and void."

Included in discovery were defendant's answers to plaintiffs' requests to admit. Therein, defendant admitted that the 1995 assessment of plaintiffs' property was correct and that plaintiffs had not made any alterations or improvements to the property from 1995 to 1996. Plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment, which was fully briefed, and the trial court conducted a hearing on the motion.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. In so holding, the trial court stated:

"[The 1995] assessed valuation of the property was correct. *** Based on that admission when there aren't any alterations or additions what's [sic] we're looking at is a situation where, as you point out [defense counsel], the court has the authority to make those changes which need to be made in the interest of justice. But if the 1995 assessment is correct, and there's been no changes [to the property], then assuming that it was correct in 1995 and it was just, I think we're stymied to pull it out of the air, and I'm going to grant the motion for summary judgment."

Defendant subsequently filed a timely notice of appeal, and plaintiffs filed a timely notice of cross-appeal.

On appeal, defendant argues that she had the authority to reassess plaintiffs' property in a nonquadrennial year and that, accordingly, the trial court's granting of plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment was improper. On cross-appeal, plaintiffs maintain that the failure of Jo Daviess County to maintain tax maps vitiates the entire property tax assessed, levied, and extended against the subject property.

Initially, we note that the appropriate standard of review was set out by this court in Rivas v. Westfield Homes of Illinois, Inc., 295 Ill. App. 3d 304, 307-08 (1998):

"Summary judgment is appropriate only when the pleadings, depositions, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, disclose that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. [Citation.] While plaintiffs need not prove their cases at the summary judgment stage, they must come forward with some facts that would arguably entitle them to judgment. [Citation.] Indeed, summary judgment is a drastic measure and should be granted only if the movant's right to judgment is clear and free from doubt. [Citation.] Therefore, where a reasonable person can draw divergent inferences from undisputed facts, summary judgment should be denied. [Citation.] Finally, our review of the trial court's entry of summary judgment is de novo."

We first address defendant's argument that the trial court erred in granting plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. Specifically, defendant argues that it had statutory authority to reassess plaintiffs' property in a nonquadrennial year. Plaintiffs respond that, under the facts of this case, defendant had no authority to reassess their property.

The Illinois Property Tax Code (Code) (35 ILCS 200/1--1 et seq. (West 1994)) provides in pertinent part:

"[I]n counties having the township form of government and with less than 3,000,000 inhabitants, the general assessment years shall be 1995 and every fourth year thereafter." 35 ILCS 200/9--215 (West 1994).

"On or before June 1 in each general assessment year in all counties with less than 3,000,000 inhabitants, *** the assessor *** shall actually view and determine as near as practicable the value of each property listed for taxation as of January 1 of that year *** and assess the property at 33 1/3% of its fair cash value ***." 35 ILCS 200/9--155 (West 1994).

"The assessment, as modified or equalized or changed as provided by law, shall be the assessment upon which taxes shall be levied and extended during the general assessment period for which the assessment is made ***." 35 ILCS 200/9--95 (West 1994). "The chief county assessment officer of any county with less than 3,000,000 inhabitants *** may in any ...

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