Ada County v. Bottolfsen, 6755

Decision Date27 April 1940
Docket Number6755
Citation102 P.2d 287,61 Idaho 363
PartiesADA COUNTY, a Political Subdivision of the State, BEN S. EASTMAN, SAM T. DAVIS, CLAUDE R. DAVIS, HARRY K. FRITCHMAN and W. E. PIERCE, Plaintiffs, v. C. A. BOTTOLFSEN, Governor, J. W. TAYLOR, Attorney General, GEORGE H. CURTIS, Secretary of State, CALVIN E. WRIGHT, State Auditor, and MYRTLE P. ENKING, State Treasurer, Being and Constituting the State Board of Equalization, Defendants, and OREGON SHORT LINE RAILROAD COMPANY, and UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, Intervenors
CourtIdaho Supreme Court

TAXATION-ASSESSMENT-STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION-JURISDICTION-RAILROADS-OPERATING PROPERTY-TERMINAL FACILITIES-STATUTES-CONSTRUCTION.

1. Where lessees erected warehouses on leased railroad land assessment of buildings by county assessor separate from land on which they were located was warranted. (I. C. A., sec 61-603.)

2. The statute defining operating property of railroads to be assessed for taxation by board of equalization is inclusive as to property to be assessed by the board and exclusive as to property to be assessed by the county assessor, while the statute providing that nonoperating property is assessable by county assessor is inclusive as to the property to be assessed by county assessor and exclusive as to property to be assessed by the board. (I. C. A., secs. 61-113, 61-603.)

3. In applying the statute defining operating property of railroads to be assessed for taxation exclusively by the board of equalization, court would separate the statute into its constituent clauses an confined to railroads. (I. C. A secs. 61-113, 61-601.)

4. Under statute defining "operating property" of railroad as including immovable property owned, used, or occupied by or operated in connection with any railroad interpretation of state board of equalization that lands leased by the railroad to and used by private parties for storage and warehouse purposes were "operating properties" was not unreasonable. (I. C. A., sec. 61-113.)

5. The state board of equalization is a constitutional board clothed by statutory authority with quasi-judicial powers in regard to assessment of certain classes and kinds of property, and it has right to exercise a fair discretion in expressing its judgment as to valuation of such property, and when it has once acted and there is no fraud shown in its judgment its action is not subject to review. (Const., art. 7, sec. 12, art. 18, secs. 6, 11.)

6. Under statute defining "operating property" of railroad as including immovable property owned, used, or occupied by or operated in connection with any railroad and reasonably necessary to maintenance and operation of such road or line or in conducting its business as owner or lessee or otherwise, definition of "operating property" of a railroad does not depend alone on the maintenance and operation of its line, but also in conducting its business, and some discretion as to what constitutes "operating property" is thereby left to both railroad and state board of equalization. (I. C. A., sec. 6-113.)

7. The Supreme Court may take judicial notice of the fact that Reclamation Service is not engaged in business or mercantile pursuits.

8. There was no such connection between Reclamation Service and railroad in conducting its business as would justify the assessment by the state board of equalization of land leased by railroad to the Reclamation Service. (I. C. A., secs. 61-113, 61-601.)

9. Under statute defining "operating property" of railroad to be assessed by board of equalization, vacant lots acquired by railroad and not used for any purpose by the railroad were not assessable as "terminal facilities" by the state board of equalization. (I. C. A., secs. 61-113, 61-601.)

10. A construction given a statute susceptible of various constructions by the executive and administrative officers of the state is entitled to great weight and will be followed by the court unless there are cogent reasons for change.

11. Where state board of equalization in construing statute defining "operating property" of railroad included land leased by railroad to and used by private parties for storage and warehouse purposes as operating property, and the construction was not challenged by the legislature nor county assessors for 18 years, such construction of statute was not so clearly wrong as to require it to be overthrown. (I. C. A., secs. 61-113, 61-601, 61-603.)

Original review of the proceedings of the State Board of Equalization.

Plaintiffs challenge by original writ of review the authority of defendants to assess certain real estate owned by intervenors and situated in Ada county. Action by state board ordered modified.

Order denied.

Kenneth O'Leary, Willis C. Moffatt and Maurice H. Greene, for Plaintiffs.

The state board of equalization has jurisdiction to assess only operating property of a railroad company. If it assesses other than operating property the assessment is void. (I. C. A., sec. 61-601; Oregon Short Line R. Co. v. Gooding, 6 Idaho 775, 59 P. 821; Oregon Short Line R. Co. v. Yeats, 2 Idaho 397, 17 P. 457; State v. State Board of Equalization, 67 Mont. 340, 215 P. 667; Cooley on Taxation, 3d ed., p. 600.)

Vacant and unoccupied property unused by a railroad company for a period of years is non-operating property. (I. C. A., sec. 61-603; Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul R. R. Co. v. Kootenai County, 33 Idaho 234, 192 P. 562.)

Property owned by a railroad company but leased to private business concerns and used only for the purposes of such private businesses, even though adjacent to railroad trackage, is non-operating property. (Minneapolis, St. P. & Sault Ste. Marie R. Co. v. Douglas County, 159 Wis. 408, 150 N.W. 422, Ann. Cas. 1916E, 1199; Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Co. v. Board of Supervisors of Crawford County, 29 Wis. 116 (1871); Milwaukee & St. Paul Ry. Co. v. Milwaukee, 34 Wis. 271 (1874); State (N. J., etc. Co.) v. Hancock, 33 N.J.L. 315.)

J. W. Taylor, Attorney General, R. W. Beckwith, E. G. Elliott, Lawrence B. Quinn and D. W. Thomas, Assistant Attorneys General, for Defendants.

The state board of equalization of the state of Idaho has exclusive jurisdiction to assess all operating property of the Oregon Short Line Railroad Company and the Union Pacific Railroad Company located in Idaho. (Secs. 61-113, 61-601, 61-603, I. C. A.; Ada County v. Oregon Short Line R. R. Co., 97 F.2d 666; City of Pocatello v. Ross et al., 51 Idaho 395, 6 P.2d 481.)

Geo. H. Smith, H. B. Thompson and L. H. Anderson, for Intervenors.

GIVENS, J. Ailshie, C. J., and Budge, J., concur. MORGAN, J., HOLDEN, J., Dissenting.

OPINION

GIVENS, J.

Plaintiffs, respectively Ada County and individual taxpayers residing therein, challenge by original writ of review (writ granted, Ada County v. Bottolfsen, ante, p. 64, 97 P.2d 599) the authority of the state board of equalization to assess some 23 parcels of real estate belonging to the Oregon Short Line Railroad Company and the Union Pacific Railroad Company, intervenors, on the ground said parcels are not operating property within sections 61-113, 61-601 and 61-603 I. C. A., and that as assessed by the state board such properties are not assessed for their true value and in the same manner and equally with other property throughout the county, thereby imposing a greater burden on plaintiff taxpayers and all others similarly situated.

In limine and so far as the latter contention is concerned if an so far as the assessment by the state board is less than the full, true and correct valuation of said property should have been, relief is to be had at the hands of the state board by an increase in the valuation of the said property as reflected in the value of the mass of operating property belonging to intervenors throughout the state. In other words, if the parcels of land herein are operating property their under valuation by the state board would not be justification for assessment other than by the state board.

The state board of equalization is a constitutional board. (Art. 7, sec. 12.) The assessor is a constitutional officer. (Art. 18, sec. 6.) Thus of equal constitutional creation and authority whose duties are equally to be prescribed by the legislature. (Art. 7, sec. 12, art. 18, sec. 11.)

In territorial days certain property of railroads was assessed by the territorial board of equalization and other property by the county assessors. (Statutes of 1887, sec. 1463.)

The line of demarcation and definition of what constitutes property to be assessed by the territorial or state board of equalization as distinguished from that to be assessed by the county assessors has varied without uniformity or continuity of definition from time to time. (1893 Sess. Laws, p. 75, sec. 9 of the act there set forth; 1895 Sess. Laws, p. 114, sec. 1490; 1899 Sess. Laws, p. 254, sec. 16; 1901 Sess. Laws, p. 257, sec. 74; secs. 61-113, 61-601, 61-603, I. C. A.) In their present form the statutes first appeared in 1913 Session Laws as part of a complete revenue act passed that year, page 178, section 11, page 199 and section 86, page 199, section 88.

With the exception of three parcels of land which are vacant, unoccupied lots adjoining intervenors' right of way in Boise City, Ada County, 17 parcels involved are leased under or for a term of years to various coal, seed and lumber concerns; and one parcel to the United States Reclamation Service, one to a general contracting concern, and one to a stage company.

All leased parcels have erected thereon structures used for warehouse and storage purposes by said concerns. The buildings are assessed by Ada County to the lessees. The courts have recognized and sanctioned the assessment of buildings separate and apart from the land on which the...

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