Appeal from the Circuit Court of De Kalb County. No. 99--MR--15 Honorable John W. Countryman, Judge, Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McLAREN
The defendants, the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB) and the De Kalb County Board of Review (De Kalb Board), appeal the order of the trial court reversing the PTAB's decision upholding the reassessment of the property of the plaintiff, Frank E. Paciga. This court consolidated the defendants' separate appeals. We affirm.
Prior to 1997, Paciga's property, 23.59 acres in Kingston, De Kalb County, Illinois, was assessed as farmland. More specifically, 3.15 acres of the parcel were assessed as "cropland" because they had been farmed in 1995, 1996, and 1997, and the remaining 20.40 acres (.04 acres of road were disregarded) were assessed as "other farmland." See 35 ILCS 200/10--125(c) (West 1996). This "other farmland" was wooded and was not farmed; however, Paciga had sold timber from these acres.
In accordance with section 10--125(a) of the Property Tax Code (Code), the "cropland" was assessed "in accordance with the equalized assessed value of its soil productivity index" adjusted (or debased) for certain factors. 35 ILCS 200/10--125(a) (West 1996). "Other farmland" was assessed "at 1/6 of its debased productivity index equalized assessed value as cropland." 35 ILCS 200/10--125(c) (West 1996). Based on this method, the total assessed value of Paciga's land was $1,178 in 1996.
In 1996, Paciga subdivided his property into 14 lots, causing each lot to become an individual parcel. Paciga also had a road cut into the wooded acres to service the lots.
In 1997, the De Kalb Board valued the now subdivided property at $21,763, using a method different from that of previous years. The De Kalb Board assessed the property by calculating the market value of the subdivided parcels, using the median sales of comparable farmland in 1996.
In response to the new assessed valuation, Paciga appeared before the PTAB, claiming overvaluation. Paciga argued that section 10--30(a) (35 ILCS 200/10--30(a) (West 1996)) of the Code prohibited the increased assessed valuation. The PTAB disagreed and held that section 10--30(b) (35 ILCS 200/10--30(b) (West 1996)) permitted the new assessed valuation because the land had been platted and subdivided. The PTAB reasoned that section 10--30(b) provided that platted and subdivided property must be valued by calculating the property's market value as it was used prior to platting. The PTAB then concluded that, except for the 3.15 acres that had been cropland, the De Kalb Board properly assessed the value of the property using the market value of the farmland at $1,131 an acre. The 3.15 acres, the PTAB concluded, should have been assessed as agriculture.
Paciga filed an administrative review action, and the trial court reversed the decision of the PTAB, finding that the PTAB had misinterpreted the law and failed to apply the plain language of section 10--30(a) of the Code. 35 ILCS 200/10--30(a) (West 1996). The trial court remanded the matter for reassessment at the assessed value of the property prior to the platting and subdividing.
On appeal, the PTAB and the De Kalb Board argue that the trial court improperly interpreted section 10--30 of the Code and erred by reversing the decisions of the PTAB and the De Kalb Board.
Section 10--30 of the Code provides:
"(a) In counties with less than 3,000,000 inhabitants, the platting and subdivision of property into separate lots and the development of the subdivided property with streets, sidewalks, curbs, gutters, sewer, water and utility lines shall not increase the assessed valuation of all or any part of the property, if:
(1) The property is platted and subdivided in accordance with the Plat Act [(765 ILCS 205/0.01 et seq.)];
(2) The platting occurs after January 1, 1978;
(3) At the time of platting the property is in excess ...