City of Pocatello v. Ross

Decision Date11 December 1931
Docket Number5795
Citation6 P.2d 481,51 Idaho 395
PartiesTHE CITY OF POCATELLO and T. C. COFFIN, Plaintiffs, v. C. BEN ROSS, Governor of the State of Idaho, F. E. LUKENS, Secretary of State of Idaho, FRED J. BABCOCK, Attorney General of Idaho, GEORGE C. BARRETT, State Treasurer of Idaho, and E. G. GALLET, State Auditor of Idaho, as the Board of Equalization of the State of Idaho, Defendants
CourtIdaho Supreme Court

TAXATION-RAILROADS-MODE OF ASSESSMENT.

1. Board of equalization was not required, in apportioning value of railroad lines for purpose of taxation, to exclude operating property within separate taxing units (C. S., secs 3106, 3183, 3187, 3189).

2. Refusal to apportion to city for municipal taxation value of operating property of railroad located therein held not violative of Constitution (Const., art. 7, secs. 5, 8, 12).

3. Valuing second track of railroad as separate, distinct line in determining mileage for taxation purposes held unauthorized (C. S., secs. 3106, 3183, 3187, 3189).

4. Board of equalization in computing length of railroad line for purpose of taxation was not required to include sidings and spurs (C. S., secs. 3106, 3183, 3187, 3189).

Original proceeding for a Writ of Review. Writ quashed.

Writ quashed; costs to defendants.

Peterson & Clark and Edwin Snow, for Plaintiffs.

C. S secs. 3183 and 3189, require the State Board of Equalization to determine and apportion the value of all railroad operating property in the state--not part of it.

These sections also require the board to determine the aggregate value of that part of the operating property necessarily included in the term "railroad line," and fix its value per mile on a uniform basis.

Taken as a whole, sections 3106 and 3183-3193, inclusive, C. S., require the board to apportion the value of the "railroad line" among the various taxing units on the basis of all track mileage, including second track, siding and spurs.

The decision of this court in Northern Pacific Ry. Co. v. Kootenai County, 19 Idaho 75, throws light upon the intent of the legislature in adopting the present law.

A comparison of the radical differences between the present law and sections 1710-1715, inclusive, Idaho Revised Codes, clearly shows that a new method of valuation and apportionment was intended.

Session Laws of Washington, 1925, chapter 130, section 47, and the proceedings under it show the proper construction of the term "the line" of a railroad for valuation and apportionment purposes.

If a statute is ambiguous, that construction should be adopted which conforms most closely to the Constitution. (Camp v. Rogers, 44 Conn. 291; Black on Interpretation of Laws, 2d ed., p. 113, and many cases there cited; Beal Cardinal Rules of Legal Interpretation, p. 345; Brett, L. J., in Ex parte Corbett, 14 Chancery Div. (Eng.) 122, p. 129.)

Const., sec. 8, art. 7, requires the property of a corporation to be subject to local taxation where it is situated.

The construction of the statute contended for by applicants is that which is most just and conforms most closely to the above constitutional requirement.

Fred J. Babcock, Attorney General, and Z. Reed Millar and Maurice H. Greene, Assistant Attorneys General, for Defendant.

The method of assessment provided by C. S., sec. 3189, contemplates a pro rata distribution of the value of each line. (State Railroad Tax Cases, 92 U.S. 575, 23 L.Ed. 663.)

"Miles of line" as used in C. S., sec. 3189, does not contemplate spurs and sidings. (State v. Stone, 119 Mo. 668, 25 S.W. 211.)

The long-continued practical construction of a statute will not be set aside unless clearly erroneous. (Whitten v. Chapman, 45 Ida 653, 264 P. 871; State v. Omaechevviaria, 27 Idaho 797, 152 P. 280; National Lead Co. v. United States, 252 U.S. 140, 40 S.Ct. 237, 64 L.Ed. 496; McLaren v. Fleischer, 256 U.S. 477, 65 L.Ed. 1052, 41 S.Ct. 577; Swendig v. Washington Water Power, 265 U.S. 322, 68 L.Ed. 1036, 44 S.Ct. 496; State v. Baker, (Mo.) 293 S.W. 339.)

This court will not interfere with the board's determination of "main line." (Northern P. Ry. Co. v. County of Kootenai, 19 Idaho 75, 112 P. 320.)

The method of apportionment pursued by the board was not unconstitutional. (Northern P. Ry. Co. v. Gifford, 25 Idaho 196, 136 P. 1131; State v. Back, 72 Neb. 402, 100 N.W. 952, 69 L. R. A. 447; Ames v. People, 26 Colo. 83, 56 P. 656.)

The value of a railroad is determined by its uses. ( Cleveland, C. C. & St. L. R. Co. v. Backus, 154 U.S. 439, 38 L.Ed. 1041, 14 S.Ct. 1122.)

H. B. Thompson, Amicus Curiae.

LEE, C. J. Givens, Varian and McNaughton, JJ., concur. Budge, J., took not part in the decision.

OPINION

LEE, C. J.

In 1931, the State Board of Equalization, after determining the full cash value of the intrastate lines of the Oregon Short Line Railroad Company to be $ 56,882,646 proceeded to apportion that value to the several taxing units through which the said lines ran. To the City of Pocatello, was apportioned a value of $ 189,886. In arriving at this figure, the board had divided the assessed value of each main line, second track and branch line by the number of miles of each and multiplied the line mileage of each main line, second track and branch line within the limits of Pocatello by the quotients. The length of line determined in each instance excluded all side-tracks and spurs amounting in the aggregate to 546.9 miles. Within the City of Pocatello were 59.29 miles of yard track, sidings and spurs. The City of Pocatello and T. C. Coffin, as mayor of Pocatello, individually and in behalf of other taxpayers similarly situated, sued out a writ of review against the board, complaining mainly that the board, in computing the "length of line" and making Pocatello's apportionment, had in both instances, by ignoring sidings, yard tracks and spurs, violated the provisions of C. S., sec. 3187, and that it had failed and refused "to assess, for taxation purposes, any other operating property of said railroad company located in the City of Pocatello, except the mileage of 'main line east and west,' 'main line north and south' and 'second track,'" notwithstanding that situate within the city limits was company operating property of the reasonable value of $ 5,203,538. Indicting this method of procedure, petitioners arraigned it as follows:

"That in valuing or assessing for taxation purposes the said operating property of the Oregon Short Line Railroad Company within the City of Pocatello, according to the method aforesaid, said Board has wholly exceeded its jurisdiction; and the power and jurisdiction attempted to be exercised by said Board in determining the value of the operating property of said railroad within the City of Pocatello, according to the method above set forth and complained of, has not been, by Constitution or statute, granted to said Board, but is wholly without warrant or authority in law.

"In spite of the fact that there is located within the territorial limits of the City of Pocatello operating properties of the Oregon Short Line Railroad Company of enormous value, all as hereinbefore set out, the assessed value for taxation purposes of said property, as assessed and determined by the said State Board of Equalization, is far less than the value at which other property within the territorial limits of the City of Pocatello is assessed for the reason that other taxing sub-divisions through which the lines of the Oregon Short Line Railroad Company pass likewise receive from the State Board of Equalization an assessed valuation for taxation purposes of the property of the Oregon Short Line Railroad Company within their territorial limits in proportion to the number of miles of main line, branch line and second track within each such taxing unit, respectively, and inasmuch as these other taxing units in many instances do not have within their territorial limits any operating property of said Oregon Short Line Railroad Company other than one or more of the classes of railroad trackage last mentioned, they receive, as part of the assessed valuation of said railroad company within their territorial limits, a large part of the value of the operating property of said railroad company's property which is located within the City of Pocatello. That as a result thereof the property of the plaintiff T. C. Coffin, and all other tax payers within the City of Pocatello, are taxed on an entirely different basis and valuation than is the operating property of said railroad company; that is to say that the operating property of said railroad company within said city is taxed therein on the basis of less than 5 per cent of its cash value, while the property of plaintiff T. C. Coffin, and all other tax payers within the city of Pocatello, is taxed therein on a basis of not less than sixty percent of its full cash value.

"That wholly by reason of the wrongful and unlawful method used by said State Board of Equalization in assessing for taxation purposes the operating property of said Oregon Short Line Railroad Company situated within the City of Pocatello all taxes have not been, and are not, uniform on the same class of subjects within the territorial limits of the City of Pocatello, as required by Section 5, Article 7, of the Constitution of Idaho; nor has the property of the Oregon Short Line Railroad Company, a corporation, been subject to taxation within the territorial limits of the City of Pocatello, as required by Section 8, Article 7, of the Constitution of Idaho."

The defendant board filed its return, relying upon the method pursued, and moved to quash the writ, for the reason that the application did not show sufficient facts to warrant relief upon its face showed that the board had regularly pursued the...

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