Normandy Consol. School Dist. v. Wellston Sewer Dist., 23521.

Decision Date31 December 1934
Docket NumberNo. 23521.,23521.
Citation77 S.W.2d 477
PartiesNORMANDY CONSOL. SCHOOL DIST. OF ST. LOUIS COUNTY v. WELLSTON SEWER DIST. OF ST. LOUIS COUNTY et al.
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

Appeal from Circuit Court, St. Louis County; Julius R. Nolte, Judge.

"Not to be published in State Reports."

Suit in equity by the Normandy Consolidated School District of St. Louis County against the Wellston Sewer District of St. Louis County and another. From the judgment of the circuit court, the named defendant appealed to the Supreme Court, which transferred the case to the St. Louis Court of Appeals .

Judgment of circuit court affirmed.

John E. Mooney, of Clayton, and Harry E. Wiehe, of St. Louis, for appellant.

Jacob M. & Arthur V. Lashly, both of St. Louis, for respondent.

BENNICK, Commissioner.

This is a suit in equity, brought by plaintiff, Normandy Consolidated School District of St. Louis County, Mo., against Wellston Sewer District of St. Louis County, Mo., and Willis Benson, collector of revenue of said county, to have certain taxes levied and assessed upon the property of the school district under and by virtue of the terms of the late sewer law (sections 11031-11071, R. S. 1929 [Mo. St. Ann. §§ 11031-11071, pp. 7400-7431]) decreed to be null and void; to have the sewer district and the collector of revenue enjoined from attempting to collect said taxes; and praying for a decree requiring the sewer district and the collector of revenue to remove from the records of their respective offices the entries assessing and levying the taxes aforesaid upon the property of the school district.

Tried upon an agreed statement of facts, a final decree was rendered in favor of plaintiff, with a permanent injunction going against both defendants as prayed, and with the costs of the proceeding assessed against the sewer district. Thereupon the sewer district alone appealed to the Supreme Court; but that court, upon determining sua sponte that it was without jurisdiction in the case, ordered the same to be transferred here. Normandy Consolidated School Dist. v. Wellston Sewer Dist. (Mo. Sup.) 74 S.W.(2d) 621.

Plaintiff, of course, is a school district organized and existing under and by virtue of the provisions of the school law, while defendant sewer district is a public corporation organized pursuant to the provisions of the sewer law heretofore cited, which, incidentally, was subsequently repealed (Laws 1931, p. 355), but with a saving clause as to all outstanding and lawfully incurred costs, obligations, and liabilities.

As respects territory and boundaries, the sewer district and school district are not identical, the sewer district including only a part of the territory of the school district. Other material facts are that the tax in question was the preliminary tax provided for by section 11037 of the old law (Mo. St. Ann. § 11037, p. 7405), the same to be used for the purpose of paying the expenses incurred and to be incurred in the organization of the sewer district; that the expenses thus to be paid by the taxes so levied and assessed were incurred by the sewer district prior to the enactment of the repealed law; and that the property of plaintiff, against which the assessment complained of went, was at all times public school property and used by plaintiff for public school purposes.

Upon such facts plaintiff argues as the basis for its right to the injunctive relief sought and obtained that its property, being public school property, was exempt from the tax assessed against it in view of what it regards as the failure of the Legislature, in the enactment of the law, to have manifested a clear intent and purpose that public school property should be subject to the tax provided for therein; and, further, that inasmuch as the tax is illegal and void (assuming that the prior point is held to be well taken), in that it has been assessed against property not subject to such assessment, then the remedy by injunction is available to it to prevent and forestall the collection of the same. Issue is joined by the sewer district, not only upon the question of whether the terms of the law were broad enough to have subjected plaintiff's property to the tax, but also upon the question of plaintiff's right, in any event, to have had injunctive relief; and it is to such two legal propositions that our consideration of the case shall go.

Now it is accepted doctrine that public schools constitute an arm of the state government and perform a public or governmental function, from which it necessarily follows that the question of whether the property of school districts is to be held liable to the imposition of a tax against it is to be determined in the light of the rules pertaining to the subject of taxation of public property generally. City of Edina, etc., v. School Dist., etc., 305 Mo. 452, 267 S. W. 112, 113, 36 A. L. R. 1532; State ex rel. v. School Dist. of Kansas City, 333 Mo. 288, 62 S.W.(2d) 813; Abercrombie v. Ely, 60 Mo. 23.

In this instance the specific point of inquiry is whether the Legislature, in the enactment of the sewer law in question, saw fit to make the property of school districts amenable to the special assessments for the local improvements provided for therein; such assessments being made pursuant to a taxing power conferred by the Legislature upon the boards of supervisors charged with the duty of administering the affairs of the sewer districts organized under such law.

It has been consistently held that neither the Constitution (article 10, § 6, Const. Mo.) nor the statute (section 9743, R. S. 1929 [Mo. St. Ann. § 9743, p. 7863]), both of which provide for the exemption of certain kinds of property, including public property, from taxation, purport to refer to or include an exemption from special assessments for local improvements, and that it is therefore within the legislative power and will, in the passage of legislation providing for the making of local, public improvements, to require public property benefited by the improvement to pay its proportionate share of the expense thereof. City of Clinton v. Henry County, 115 Mo. 557, 22 S. W. 494, 495, 37 Am. St. Rep. 415; Thogmartin v. Nevada School Dist., 189 Mo. App. 10, 176 S. W. 473.

But even though the legislative body has the unquestioned power to require public property located in a benefit district to pay its proportionate share of the cost of the benefit, yet the rule is that public property, which is made use of as an integral part of government in the exercise of a governmental function, is nevertheless to be held exempt from any such special assessment unless in the enactment of the law the lawmakers have manifested a clear legislative intent that such public property shall be subject to the assessment. This doctrine traces its ancestry back to the ancient common-law principle that the crown was not to be bound by any statute, the words of which restrained or diminished any of his rights or interests, unless he was specially named therein; and the theory of the modernized restatement of the principle is that to require...

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9 cases
  • State ex rel. Jones v. Nolte
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • November 12, 1942
    ... ... (2) The assessments made by Central Sewer District ... and sued for in its name are a tax ... 21, 241 S.W. 402; Normandy Consolidated School Dist. v ... Wellston Sewer ... ...
  • State ex rel. and to Use of Hughes v. Southwestern Bell Telephone Co.
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • April 3, 1944
    ... ... , incorporated town and village and school purposes ... and for the erection of public ... 1939; Section 8716, R.S. 1939; ... Normandy Consol. School Dist. v. Wellston Sewer District ... ...
  • State ex rel. Missouri Portland Cement Co. v. Smith
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • February 4, 1936
    ... ... J. 366; City of Edina v. School District, 305 Mo ... 452, 267 S.W. 112; State ... 494; Thogmartin ... v. Nevada School Dist., 189 Mo.App. 10, 176 S.W. 473; ... Normandy sol. School Dist. v. Wellston Sewer ... Dist., 77 S.W.2d 477. (c) If not ... ...
  • Kansas City v. School Dist. of Kansas City
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • April 21, 1947
    ... ... 452, 267 S.W. 112, 36 ... A.L.R. 1532; Normandy Consolidated School Dist. v ... Wellston Sewer District, ... imposed by statute. See now Normandy Consol. School Dist ... of St. Louis County v. Wellston Sewer ... ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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