Anderson v. City of Park Ridge

Decision Date12 March 1947
Docket NumberNo. 29986.,29986.
Citation396 Ill. 235,72 N.E.2d 210
CourtIllinois Supreme Court


Appeal from Circuit Court, Cook County; William V. Brothers, judge.

Action by Grace Anderson against the City and others to enjoin the county clerk of Cook County from extending a certain part of the city tax levied for general corporate purposes for 1946 and to enjoin the county treasurer and ex-officio county collector of the county from collecting the same, wherein the Taxpayers' Federation of Illinois intervened as a party plaintiff, and wherein the Illinois Association of School Boards intervened as a defendant. From a decree dismissing the suit for want of equity, the plaintiff and the Taxpayers' Federation of Illinois appeal.

Decree reversed and cause remanded with directions to proceed in accordance with opinion.Scott, MacLeish & Falk, of Chicago (Robert S. Cushman and Robert C. Keck, both of Chicago, of counsel), for plaintiff-appellant.

Maurice W. Scott, of Springfield, for intervenor-appellant.

Marshall S. Howard, of Chicago, for appellee, City of Park Ridge.

William J. Touhy, State's Atty., of Chicago (Jacob Shamberg, of Chicago, of counsel), for appellees Michael J. Flynn and others.

John J. Bresee, of Urbana, amicus curiae.

Zimmerman & Norman, of Chicago, and Giffin, Winning, Lindner, Newkirk & Jones, of Springfield (Montgomery S. Winning, of Springfield, of counsel), for intervenor-appellee Illinois Association of School Boards.

MURPHY, Justice.

Plaintiff-appellant, Grace Anderson, is a resident of Cook county and owns real estate located in the city of Park Ridge. Such property is subject to general taxation, including the tax for the general corporate purpose fund of the city, which is the only tax specifically mentioned in the pleadings. This action was started in the circuit court of Cook county in November, 1946, to enjoin the county clerk of Cook county from extending a certain part of the city tax levied for general corporate purpose for 1946, and to enjoin the county treasurer and ex-officio county collector of that county from collecting the same. The city, the county clerk and the treasurer, as the ex-officio collector of taxes, were made parties defendant. Before the decree was entered the Taxpayers' Federation of Illinois obtained leave to intervene and appeared as a party plaintiff. The Illinois Association of School Boards was also granted leave to intervene, but it appeared as a party defendant. The Illinois State's Attorney's Association was given leave to appear as amicus curiae. Motions of the city of Park Ridge, the county officials, and the Association of School Boards to dismiss were sustained. Plaintiff elected to stand by her complaint and the suit was dismissed for want of equity. Plaintiff and the taxpayers' federation filed separate notices of appeal. The revenue being involved the cause comes direct to this court.

The first two subparagraphs of the prayer of plaintiff's complaint ask for a declaratory judgment, declaring that the extension of the 1946 corporate fund taxes for the city is controlled and limited by the provision of paragraph 2 of section 162 a, added in 1945 to the Revenue Act of 1939, (Ill.Rev.Stat.1945, chap. 120, par. 643 a,) and that the maximum corporate fund tax rate to be employed in extending the tax against plaintiff's property is the rate required to produce the sum of $70,025 when applied to the city's 1946 100-percent assessment.

The third paragraph of the prayer is an alternative to the two preceding paragraphs. It asks that the county clerk of Cook county, whose duty it was to extend the corporate fund tax for the city of Park Ridge, be perpetually enjoined from extending the tax in question in excess of a rate required to produce the sum of $70,025 when applied to the 1946 100-percent assessment. Similar relief was asked against the county treasurer to enjoin him as collector from collecting corporate fund taxes in excess of the said sum of $70,025.

Although defendants do not question plaintiff's right to have a declaratory decree entered, it is proper to consider whether the court assumed jurisdiction to grant relief under the part of the prayer asking for a declaratory decree or that part which invokes the general power of a court of equity to enjoin the extension and collection of an illegal tax, or by a combination of both.

In Knopf v. First Nat. Bank, 173 Ill. 331, 50 N.E. 660, 662, the contention was made that equity had no jurisdiction in an action brought by a single taxpayer to enjoin the extension of an illegal tax in its entirety. It was argued that the burden of the tax, if extended, was separate as to each taxpayer and his property and that there was nothing a common in the tax which permitted a single taxpayer to have any part of the illegal tax enjoined except that which applied to his particular property. After a review of many cases, it was said: They settle the law as to the jurisdiction of courts of equity in this state, and as to the right of a taxpayer or a number of taxpayers to enjoin the extension or collection of an entire tax that is unauthorized and void.’ The same principle was applied in Green v. Mail, 362 Ill. 518, 200 N.E. 604, where only 26 taxpayers sought the injunction against the illegal tax.

The following facts are pertinent to this inquiry in reference to the character of the relief prayed. The city's appropriation and tax-levy ordinances asked for $90,000 for general corporate fund purposes. The theory on which plaintiff's complaint was drawn concedes that of this amount the city is entitled to have a rate applied to the 1946 100-percent assessment that would produce $70,025. In reference to its power to tax for such purposes, the city makes two contentions. First, it is argued makes two contentions. First, it is argued that section 162a is unconstitutional. If such contention were sustained, all the restrictions on rate imposed by section 162a, construction of which is involved in this case, would be removed and the city's maximum tax could be the 100-percent assessment times a rate of .333 per $100 assessed value. It is estimated that such rate would produce in excess of $130,000, but since the appropriation and levy was for but $90,000 the city would be limited to that amount. The city's second contention is that if the statute in question is constitutional then paragraphs 1 and 2 of the section should be construed to provide a rate which, applied to the 100-percent assessed value, would produce approximately $82,283. If the constitutionality of the section is sustained, the amount which plaintiff claims is about to be illegally extended would be the difference between $70,025 and the estimate of $82,283. Plaintiff's contention as to such difference is that it is illegal and if extended would be without authority of law. Under the authority of the cases cited, a decree in favor of plaintiff could enjoin that portion of the tax which is illegal,-that which would produce approximately $12,000. Such facts are sufficient to warrant a court of equity in assuming jurisdiction of a case by one or more taxpayers. It would avoid the extension of an illegal tax and prevent a multiplicity of actions by the many taxpayers. On the facts stated, the cause will be considered as one asking for the general relief which a court of equity may exercise in preventing the extension of an illegal tax. The prayer, if granted, goes to only a part of the entire tax, but that is no obstacle to the granting of equitable relief if the illegal is capable of being separated from the legal. People ex rel. Ryan v. Chicago & Alton R. Co. 273 Ill. 452, 113 N.E. 142;Siegfried v. Raymond, 190 Ill. 424, 60 N.E. 868;Briscoe v. Allison, 43 Ill. 291.

The questions involved are of pressing public interest, for the rate to be applied in the extension of the 1946 taxes for every taxing district in the State, having a population of less than 500,000, must be determined by the processes prescribed in section 162a. An examination of section 57 1/2 of the Civil Practice Act, (Ill.Rev.Stat.1945, chap. 110, par. 181.1,) which was added in 1945, discloses that plaintiff could not obtain any relief under the declaratory judgment that is not available in the action to enjoin the illegal part of the tax. The general rule in other jurisdictions is that declaratory judgment actions brought for the purpose of having a declaration of rights in reference to tax matters cannot be sustained where there is another established remedy available. (See cases in annotation 132 A.L.R. 1120.) However, in either case the decree would not be res judicata as to any one who was not a party to the action, but, in either event, the construction given in this case will be binding on the parties to this proceeding and serve as a precedent and guide for those officials whose duty it is to extend the taxes.

The pertinent part of section 162a is as follows:

‘The maximum percentages of full, fair cash value at which taxes may be extended are those set forth in the Constitution and in this and other Acts; provided that further restrictions shall apply to taxing districts of less than 500,000 population, as follows:

(1) During the five-year period beginning January 1, 1946 and ending December 31, 1950, unless changed by referendum as provided in paragraph 5 of this section, no tax rate shall be restricted to a percentage less than sufficient to yield an amount equivalent to the product of: (a) the full, fair cash value of the taxable property in the taxing district as equalized or assessed by the Department for the current year, (b) the 1942 ratio of assessed to full, fair cash value reported and published by the Department for the county in which the taxing district is situated, provided that if the taxing district lies in more than one county, the average ratio of assessed to full fair cash value shall be used, which average ratio shall be...

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