Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 97 L 50268 Honorable Joanne L. Lanigan, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Barth
On March 10, 1997, plaintiffs, Steven I. Givot, P. James Perille, Frank J. Perhats, Arden D. Perhats, Thomas J. Roeser, and Jeanette Muench, filed a two-count complaint against defendants, David D. Orr, the county clerk of Cook County (Cook County clerk); Edward Rosewell, the Cook County treasurer; Willard R. Helander, the county clerk of Lake County; Katherine Schultz, the county clerk of McHenry County; Lorraine P. Sava, the county clerk of Kane County; and Community Unit School District No. 220. The complaint sought "relief under section 18-145 of the Illinois Property Tax Code" (35 ILCS 200/18-145 (West 1994)) and declaratory judgment relief. Plaintiffs Givot and Perille (appellants) appeal from the trial court's order dismissing the complaint. We affirm.
The boundaries of Community Unit School District 220 (District 220) include property in Cook, Kane, Lake, and McHenry Counties. Plaintiffs are property owners whose property lies within the boundaries of District 220.
In count I of the complaint, Givot alleged that the Cook County clerk erred in his calculation of the extension of taxes for the District 220 educational and special education funds for tax year 1993 by creating a deficiency in the tax levy. In particular, the complaint alleges that, in the 1992 tax year, the Cook County clerk reduced the tentative extensions for the District 220 educational fund and the District 220 special education fund by $3,397,657 and $49,174, respectively. When multiplied by the Cook County percentage of burden, 47.39%, the Cook County clerk's reduction in extensions produced a net reduction of $1,633,453 in the Cook County portion of the District 220 extension. The complaint further alleges that, for the 1993 tax year, the Cook County clerk illegally created his own district-wide levy of $3,468,866 and denominated it as a "deficiency in tax levy." When multiplied by the Cook County percentage of burden, 47.56%, the Cook County clerk's "deficiency in tax levy" extension produced a net extension of $1,640,281 in the Cook County portion of District 220.
Givot asserted that the "deficiency in levy" resulted in the taxes paid on Givot's property and all other property in the Cook County portion of District 220 being higher than required by law. He further alleged that the Cook County clerk did not abate an amount equal to the excess taxes erroneously extended in the following tax year, as required by section 18-145. The complaint further states that "1994 tax bills have issued, so that the fulfillment of the purpose of Section 18-145 *** can be accomplished only by refunding the excess taxes" to every individual who paid them. Givot sought a judgment declaring that the deficiency in the tax levy was an error in the extension of taxes, ordering the Cook County clerk to calculate the refund due to every individual who paid 1993 taxes based on the error, and ordering the Cook County treasurer to pay the refund to each taxpayer.
In count II, all plaintiffs alleged that the Cook County clerk inflated by $2.3 million the aggregate extension base for the 1995 tax levy for District 220. Plaintiffs alleged that this was an error in the extension of taxes and resulted in the 1995 taxes paid on all property in the Cook County portion of District 220 being higher than required by law. Plaintiffs further alleged that District 220 brought an action in the circuit court of Lake County asserting that, because the Cook County clerk inflated the aggregate extension base, the county clerks of Lake, Kane, and McHenry Counties must be directed to do the same *fn1 .
In count II, plaintiffs sought a judgment declaring that the Cook County clerk's inflation of the aggregate extension base was an error and ordering the Cook County clerk to abate an amount equal to the alleged error in the calculation of the aggregate extension base in the 1995 levy year from the property taxes extended for the 1996 levy year as against all property in the Cook County portion of District 220. Further, plaintiffs sought relief in the form of an order setting the aggregate extension base at $45,597,606.51, that the county clerks of Cook, Kane, Lake, and McHenry Counties are to use in the calculation of a uniform aggregate extension base for the 1996 levy year. Also, plaintiffs requested that, if the county clerks of Cook, Kane, Lake, and McHenry Counties were to use a figure higher than the specific amount requested for 1996, then the court declare that to be an error and order an abatement in the 1997 levy year.
District 220 moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to sections 2- 615 and 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-615, 2-619 (West 1996)), and the Lake County clerk joined in this motion. In its motion, District 220 asserted that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to provide the relief requested because the tax objection procedure outlined in sections 23-5 and 23-10 of the Property Tax Code (35 ILCS 200/23-5, 23-10 (West 1994)) provides an adequate remedy at law and because section 23-15 of the Property Tax Code (35 ILCS 200/23-15 (West 1994)) prohibits actions seeking class-wide relief.
With regard to count II, District 220 asserted that all plaintiffs other than Givot intervened in the Lake County action referenced in the complaint and that, on February 19, 1997, the circuit court of Lake County entered a final order directing action on the part of the county clerks of Kane, Lake, and McHenry Counties, so that all of the county clerks are using the same aggregate tax extension base figures for the 1996 tax year. *fn2 Thus, according to District 220, the ruling of the circuit court of Lake County barred count II under the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel.
The Cook County clerk and the Cook County treasurer (Cook County defendants) moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to section 2-615, 2- 619, and 2-619.1 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-615, 2-619, 2-619.1 (West 1996)). These defendants adopted the contentions of District 220 and further argued that section 18-145 confers neither an equitable nor a private right of action and that Givot failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.
On April 6, 1998, the trial court dismissed the complaint in its entirety. In its written opinion, the trial court concluded that (1) the complaint did not present allegations of an unauthorized tax which would permit a declaratory judgment action, (2) the tax objection process provides an adequate remedy at law, (3) section 18-145 does not grant plaintiffs an implied private cause of action, (4) Givot did not have standing to bring the action because he did not file tax objections for the years in question, and (5) because all plaintiffs other than Givot had tax objections pending in Lake County, their claims were barred pursuant to section 2-619(a)(3) of the Code.
On May 6, 1998, plaintiffs Givot, Perille, Frank J. Perhats, and Arden D. Perhats (moving plaintiffs) moved for reconsideration of the trial court's ruling and sought leave to file an amended complaint. The moving plaintiffs did not attach to this motion a copy of a proposed amended complaint. District 220 filed a timely memorandum opposing the motion for reconsideration. The moving plaintiffs took no action on the motion.
On January 26, 1999, the Cook County defendants filed a motion requesting that the trial court deny the motion for reconsideration on the ground that the moving plaintiffs failed to request a hearing on the motion within 90 days, as required under local rules. On February 23, 1999, the moving plaintiffs filed a "supplement" to their motion for reconsideration. In this filing, the moving plaintiffs averred that the 28 largest taxpayers in District 220 had filed objections regarding the amount of their 1993 taxes. The moving plaintiffs requested that the trial court continue their action pending a decision regarding the tax objections and attached a proposed amended complaint.
The moving plaintiffs proposed the amendment in light of the trial court's comment in its written opinion that, if it were proven in a tax objection proceeding that the Cook County clerk did in fact commit the errors plaintiffs allege, then the court in that matter could order the Cook County clerk to abate the excess taxes in the following year pursuant to section 18-145. The proposed amended complaint added allegations regarding the 28 pending tax objection proceedings and claimed that, if the objectors are successful, then the condition precedent to the granting of relief under section 18-145 will have been satisfied.
On April 21, 1999, the trial court granted the Cook County defendants' motion to deny the motion for ...