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First American Bank Corporation et al v. Gwen Henry

January 21, 2011

FIRST AMERICAN BANK CORPORATION ET AL.,
APPELLANTS,
v.
GWEN HENRY, DU PAGE COUNTY TREASURER AND EX OFFICIO DU PAGE COUNTY COLLECTOR, APPELLEE (THE FOREST PRESERVE DISTRICT OF DU PAGE COUNTY, INTERVENOR-APPELLEE).



JUSTICE THEIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, Karmeier, and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

The issue in this case is whether the Forest Preserve District of Du Page County (the District) was required by section 7--171 of the Illinois Pension Code (40 ILCS 5/7--171 (West 2008)) to enact an appropriation ordinance for its contribution to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) before it enacted a levy ordinance to raise revenue that would, in part, cover this contribution. The circuit court of Du Page County entered summary judgment in favor of the District, and the appellate court affirmed. For the reasons that follow, we also affirm.

BACKGROUND

The IMRF was established by the Illinois General Assembly in 1939 and began operating in 1941 as a public pension program for five municipalities. Today, the fund administers $22.3 billion in assets for nearly 275,000 current and former employees of 2,950 local government entities across the state.*fn1 Each municipality pays its own employees' disability, retirement, and death benefits into its own account, pursuant to a contribution rate determined by independent actuaries based upon the employees' salaries, ages, and years of service. Every June, the Retirement Fund Board notifies each municipality of the preliminary contribution rate, and every November of the final contribution rate, for the following year.*fn2 Then each municipality must raise revenue to support its contribution.

In June 1999, the District received an "Advance IMRF Contribution Notice," and in November 1999, it received an "Official Notice of Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund Contribution Rate for Calendar Year 2000." On November 16, 1999, the District passed a levy ordinance, which included $981,511 for its contribution to the IMRF for the following year. On June 20, 2000, the District passed a appropriation ordinance, which included $1,102,628 for its contribution to the IMRF and referred to the November 16, 1999, levy ordinance.

On November 15, 2000, First American Bank Corporation and three other companies (the plaintiffs) filed a tax objection, contending that the District lacked authority to levy for its IMRF contribution before it appropriated for it because section 7--171(b)(1) of the Pension Code limits the tax to the "amount appropriated." See 40 ILCS 5/7--171(b)(1) (West 2008). In July 2008, the District was granted leave to intervene in the case, and the parties agreed that any final order in this case would govern the plaintiffs' tax objections for 1999-2006. The District then filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it acted within its authority under section 7--171 and sections 13.1 and 13.3 of the Downstate Forest Preserve District Act. See 70 ILCS 805/13.1, 13.3 (West 2008). The trial court concluded that section 7--171(b)(1) sets a ceiling on, but not a timetable for, the IMRF levy, and entered summary judgment in favor of the District. The plaintiffs appealed.

The appellate court affirmed. 397 Ill. App. 3d 301. The appellate court agreed with the plaintiffs that section 7--171(b)(1) gives municipalities the authority to levy taxes for IMRF contributions. Id. at 304. The appellate court, however, disagreed with the plaintiffs that section 7--171(b)(1) requires municipalities to appropriate first and levy second. Id. at 305. Such an interpretation, stated the appellate court, goes beyond the statutory language:

"While the use of the phrase 'the amount appropriated' may certainly be interpreted to refer to the amount 'already appropriated' or 'previously appropriated' for a contribution to the Fund, it is equally possible to read it as meaning the amount 'subsequently appropriated' or 'eventually appropriated' for such a contribution. The mere use of the term 'appropriated' does not signify a preference for either of these interpretations, and nothing about the language quoted indicates that the legislature intended to impose a timing sequence mandating that a municipality adopt an appropriation ordinance before it adopts its levying ordinance. Rather than imposing a timing requirement, the plain language of this provision imposes a limit on the amount that may be levied: a municipality may not levy taxes that would exceed the amount appropriated for its contribution to the Fund. This restriction prevents a municipality from accumulating excess funds at the expense of the taxpayer. There is no hint of any other purpose intended by the legislature in enacting this provision." (Emphasis in original.) Id. at 305.

The appellate court further stated that section 7--171(e) contains a provision permitting municipalities to refer to other statutes in establishing procedures for levying and collecting taxes for IMRF contributions. Id. at 308. Here, the general taxes for the District are levied and collected pursuant to sections 13.1 and 13.3 of the Downstate Forest Preserve District Act. Id. at 308. Because the District complied with that statute, the trial court did not err in entering summary judgment in its favor. Id. at 309.

This court allowed the plaintiffs' petition for leave to appeal.

Ill.

S. Ct. R. 315 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010). Our standard of review is de novo. See DesPain v. City of Collinsville, 382 Ill. App. 3d 572, 577 (2008) (holding that statutory interpretation issues and ...


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