People ex rel. Heuer v. Chicago, B.&Q.R. Co.

CourtSupreme Court of Illinois
Citation377 Ill. 470,36 N.E.2d 925
Decision Date17 September 1941
Docket NumberNo. 26210.,26210.
PartiesPEOPLE ex rel. HEUER, County Collector, v. CHICAGO, B. & Q. R. CO.


Proceeding by the People, on the relation of B. H. (Ben) Heuer, County Collector of Adams County, against the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company to collect taxes. From a judgment overruling defendant's objections to the tax levies, defendant appeals.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded, with directions.Appeal from Adams County Court; S. S. Groves, Judge.

Andrew C. Scott and James I. Shields, both of Chicago, for appellant.

Mark A. Penick, State's Atty., of Quincy (Arthur R. Roy, of Quincy, of counsel), for appellee.

FARTHING, Justice.

The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company objected to the 1939 county general corporate purposes tax levy of Adams county on the grounds that the county board failed to itemize properly the purposes and amounts, contrary to section 156 of the 1939 Revenue act. Ill.Rev.Stat.1939, chap. 120, par. 637. It also objected to the following specific items in that levy: ‘Circuit Clerk for official services, $2000; County clerk for official services, $2000; Sheriff for official services, $6300; Sheriff per diem attending county and circuit courts, $5500 * * * for the reason each of these officers was paid a stipulated salary for ‘official services' and the constitution provides that their salaries, deputy hire and office expenses must be paid out of fees earned and collected.’ The objection to the items ‘Salary of Deputy coroner, $300’ and ‘Salary for coroner and expenses, $1400’, as stated, was that they were void for the reason that ‘the coroner and deputy coroner are paid out of fees and not salaries.’ As to the last three items named, Supplies county offices, Legal Blanks, $2000; ‘Record Books, $2000 and ‘Stationery, $2000, the objector says they were payable only ‘out of fees earned and collected by county officers.’

The railroad company also objected to the 1939 levy for the Tri-Township Fire District for the reason that from the certificate of levy it appeared that the levy ordinance was passed and certified to the county clerk after the second Tuesday in August, 1939, which was August 8, contrary to the provisions of section 157 of the 1939 Revenue act, above cited. A stipulation in the record shows that this levy ordinance was adopted Friday, August 11, 1939, and filed with the county clerk four days later. The county court of Adams county overruled these objections and the railroad company has appealed.

The parties stipulated that the county board of supervisors adopted the appropriation ordinance, September 13, 1939, and the levy ordinance December 13, 1939. The former was carried into the latter verbatim, and no other itemization was made in the levy ordinance. The stipulation sets out the specific items above enumerated and shows the aggregate amount of the appropriation items was $164,775 from which was deducted $30,000 designated ‘Amount estimated of receipts from earnings of officers, and from all other sources $30,000’, and that this was true of both ordinances. The balance of $134,775 was designated ‘Totals General Fund $134,775’. It is also stipulated that a resolution was adopted December 13, 1939, which reads in part: ‘And be it further resolved and ordered, that the County Clerk of said County of Adams be, and he is hereby empowered and directed to extend upon the Collector's books of said County against the taxable property of said County the said amounts hereinbefore by this Board so appropriated and levied.’

Appellant's first contention is that the levy for county general corporate purposes was void because, first, the $30,000 was not subtracted from the total amount of the appropriations ($164,775) and the balance itemized in the levy ordinance so that the sum of its items would be $134,775 without any subtraction being made from the last named total; and, second, that the several items listed above which are objected to and which total $27,000, compled with the claimed improper itemization in the levy ordinance, made it impossible for taxpayers to determine what part of the $134,775 was levied for any specific purpose. By the second part of this objection, appellant assumed that the particular items, above set out, were absolutely void, although there had been no such adjudication. Naturally, the collector's application for judgment and sale was filed long after the levy ordinance was passed. Objections could not be filed and adjudicated until the application was on file. Whether it finally develops that appellant's objections to specific items are well taken or are overruled, the assumed invalidity of those items could not be made the basis of its claim that the whole levy for general county corporate purposes, of which they were a part, was void. To permit this would be equivalent to allowing an objector to make matters that happened subsequent to the adoption of the levy ordinance, a basis for tax objections. In People v. Scott, 300 Ill. 290, 133 N.E. 299, two items of a school district tax levy were objected to because of matters that occurred after the levy had been made. At page 298 and at page 300 of that opinion in 300 Ill., 133 N.E. 299 this court held the validity of a levy must be determined at the time it is made, and a similar holding is contained in People v. Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway Co., 316 Ill. 410, 147 N.E. 492, and People v. Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railway Co., 343 Ill. 101, 175 N.E. 4.

Let us suppose that appellant's objections to the specific items are sustained. Through its own diligence and its efforts to protect its property from an illegal tax levy a computation will have to be made. But taxpayers who made no objection to those items, or who did not make the same objections, would obtain no benefit whatever through the order of court which sustained appellant's objections.

This computation has no effect whatever upon the one the appellant claims it was required to make in the first instance to determine what part of the tax levied was to be used for any particular purpose. The computation that must be made where tax objections to items in the general corporate purposes levy are sustained, must be made to determine what rate of tax results when the invalid items are subtracted from the total amount levied. If this is not done the objector would win an empty victory and the fruits of his labors would be lost. The value of his property for taxation purposes must be multiplied by the reduced rate and this amount must be subtracted from the original amount levied against his property, so that it can be known what part of that original amount of tax is to be abated.

The views just expressed are not consistent with what was said with reference to the general corporate purpose county levy in People v. Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Co., 360 Ill. 433, 196 N.E. 472, 473, but it should be pointed out that although, in that case, the fact was that the amendment of the tax levy, passed December 22, 1933, was to remove from the levy $7800, made up of admittedly illegal items in the levy for salaries of the county clerk, circuit clerk, sheriff and county treasurer, and no corresponding reduction was made in the sum of ‘$54,572.67, ‘estimated earnings of county offices,” this could only work a benefit to the taxpayer on account of which he could not complain. The amendment of the tax levy by that resolution which removed the four illegal items from the levy ordinance and subtracted the total of $7,800 from the total levy of $111,427.33 made no additional and no more difficult calculation necessary, on the part of a taxpayer, than if $7,800 and the original amount subtracted ($54,572.67) had been added together and subtracted as one item from the total amount of the items contained in the levy ordinance. It is pointed out in that decision that the levy ordinance contained items such as ‘$3,000 for mileage and per diem’ and expenses of county offices but the taxpayer could and did object to such items. The fact that such items are contained in a levy ordinance do not render it void in toto no matter how invalid the particular items may prove to be. Taxpayers are required to deposit at least 75 per cent of the amount of taxes they object to. If their objections are sustained the overpayment is refunded to them. This, as has already been pointed out, requires a computation, but it in no way complicates or relates to the initial computation the taxpayer has to make in a case such as the one before us and in the Burlington case just cited. To the extent that the holding in that case is inconsistent with the views here expressed, that decision is overruled.

In further support of this view, we call attention to our holding in People v. Diversey Hotel Corp., 364 Ill. 298, 4 N.E.2d 365, 366. Although it is admitted, as pointed out there, that section 121 of the Revenue act (Laws of 1871-72, p. 1) was held inapplicable to the Chicago Sanitary District in People v. Bowman, 253 Ill. 234, 97 N.E. 304, this is immaterial because the Smith-Hurd Illinois Revised Statutes of 1935, chapter 42, paragraphs 324b, 324c (4 and 5) 324d, 324e and 324f required the Sanitary District of Chicago to adopt a budget and an appropriation ordinance both of which had to be itemized. It was pointed out in that decision that this statute required publication of all essential steps in arriving at the amount to be appropriated and levied. It required publication of detailed statements of all items of receipts and expenditures and also of funds of the district which were required to be designated and also publication of the detailed statements thereof....

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