Petition from the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board 97 22106 I3, 97 22107 I3, 97 20270 C3, 97 20286 C3, 97 20778 C3, 97 22929 C3, 97 22938 C3, 97 21780 C3, 97 20182 I3, 97 23689 C3, 97 23690 C3, 97 22829 I3 through 97 22849 I3
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cahill
We review eight consolidated appeals brought by the Cook County Board of Review (the Board), challenging decisions of the state Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB). In each case PTAB first rejected a level of assessment percentage on commercial property mandated by the Cook County Real Property Assessment Classification Ordinance (Cook County ordinance or the ordinance) (Cook County Real Property Assessment Classification Ordinance, Ord. No. 80-0-14 (amended November 6, 1997)). PTAB then used a median level assessment percentage derived from sales ratio studies prepared by the Illinois Department of Revenue (the Department).
The decision of our supreme court in Walsh v. Property Tax Appeal Board, 181 Ill. 2d 228, 692 N.E.2d 260 (1998), is brief, clear and relevant to a consideration of the cases before us. Here are two excerpts that inform our response:
"The Illinois property tax scheme is grounded in article IX, section 4, of the Illinois Constitution of 1970, which provides in pertinent part that real estate taxes 'shall be levied uniformly by valuation ascertained as the General Assembly shall provide by law.' Ill. Const. 1970, art. IX, § 4(a). Uniformity requires equality in the burden of taxation. Kankakee County Board of Review v. Property Tax Appeal Board, 131 Ill. 2d 1, 20 (1989). This, in turn, requires equality of taxation in proportion to the value of the property taxed. Apex Motor Fuel Co. v. Barrett, 20 Ill. 2d 395, 401 (1960). Thus, taxing officials may not value the same kinds of properties within the same taxing boundary at different proportions of their true value. Kankakee County Board of Review, 131 Ill. 2d at 20. The party objecting to an assessment on lack of uniformity grounds bears the burden of proving the disparity by clear and convincing evidence. Kankakee County Board of Review, 131 Ill. 2d at 22.
'[The] great central and dominant idea of the constitution is uniformity of taxation, and no power exists or should exist in any corporate authority to go counter to this command of the fundamental law. Therefore one person cannot be compelled to pay a greater proportion of taxes, according to the value of his property, than another, and where assessors have disregarded the injunction of the law and made an assessment of property far below its real cash value, their misconduct must also follow the principle of uniformity and their assessments of all persons must be at the same proportional value.' (Emphasis added.) People's Gas Light & Coke Co. v. Stuckart, 286 Ill. 164, 173 (1918).
To hold otherwise would sanction assessed valuations on different proportions of like properties in direct contravention of the uniformity clause. Ill. Const. 1970, art. IX, § 4(a); Kankakee County Board of Review, 131 Ill. 2d at 20." Walsh, 181 Ill. 2d at 234-37.
With Walsh in mind, we stress at the outset that the issue the parties would like us to decide, and the first issue raised by the Board-whether PTAB has the power to determine in an appropriate case that the percentages mandated by the Cook County ordinance for commercial property have not been uniformly applied-cannot be reached for two reasons: (1) the taxpayers never raised the issue of uniformity in six of the eight cases; and (2) in two cases, the evidence tendered by the taxpayers is wholly inadequate for meaningful appellate review. In concluding that the issue of PTAB's power to deviate from the Cook County ordinance need not be reached, we do not mean to suggest that the records and briefs before us are otherwise adequate to fairly address the issue. We know that administrative agencies lack the authority to invalidate a statute on constitutional grounds or even to question its validity. Texaco-Cities Service Pipeline Co. v. McGaw, 182 Ill 2d 262 (1998). None of the parties raised this issue, nor would we address it unless necessary for a resolution of the case after full and fair briefing.
The Board raises the following issues on appeal in all eight cases:
(1) PTAB lacked authority to substitute median levels of assessment based on Department of Revenue sales ratio studies for those contained in the Cook County ordinance.
(2) The taxpayers did not raise the issue of uniformity and failed to present evidence on the issue in six cases, and presented untimely or insufficient evidence in two cases.
(3) PTAB took "official" notice of evidence not introduced by the taxpayers-the Department of Revenue sales ratio studies-contravening its own rules and in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (5 ILCS 100/10-1-1 et seq. (West 1998)).
(4) The PTAB decisions in all eight cases were against the manifest weight of the evidence.
(5) In four of the eight cases the fair market value of the property set by PTAB is against the manifest weight of the evidence.
In response, PTAB argues that: (1) PTAB has the authority and duty under the Illinois constitutional requirement of uniformity to apply a median level of assessment derived from the Department of Revenue's sales ratio studies; (2) PTAB may take judicial notice of the studies even though the parties did not introduce them in evidence; and (3) the Board waived the argument that PTAB lacked authority to apply a median level of assessment.
In the course of this opinion we conclude that the second and third issues raised by the Board are dispositive and that PTAB's orders substituting median level percentages for those codified in the Cook County ordinance must be reversed. We agree that the record supports the Board's argument that the issue of uniformity was never raised by the taxpayers in six of the cases. In two cases we conclude that the evidence offered by the taxpayers failed to meet their clear and convincing burden and must be reversed as well. In the four cases where the Board challenged the findings of PTAB on fair market value, we affirm.
We have been aided in our analysis by the serious interest in these cases among taxpayers and agencies of government, as well as concerned citizen groups. In addition to the PTAB brief of the Attorney General, each taxpayer has filed a brief. We have also allowed four amici briefs: from the Chicago Board of Education, the president of the Cook County Board, ...