Wangelin v. Wiggins Ferry Co.

Decision Date20 June 1934
Docket NumberNo. 22472.,22472.
Citation357 Ill. 173,191 N.E. 296
PartiesPEOPLE ex rel. WANGELIN, County Collector, v. WIGGINS FERRY CO.
CourtIllinois Supreme Court

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Proceeding by the People, on the relation of R. S. Wangelin, County Collector, against the Wiggins Ferry Company. From a judgment for relator, respondent appeals.

Reversed and remanded, with directions.

Appeal from St. Clair County Court; Joseph E. Fleming, Judge.

Kramer, Campbell, Costello & Wiechert, of East St. Louis, for appellant.

Louis P. Zerweck, State's Atty., of Belleville, for appellee.

HERRICK, Justice.

The appellee, as county collector of St. Clair county, applied to the county court of that county for judgment for delinquent real estate taxes for the year 1932 assessed in the sum of $21,631.04 against the real estate of appellant. Of such tax $9,560.59 was paid by the appellant and objections were filed to the sum of $12,070.45. The first and seventh objections charge, in substance, that the appellant has paid all of the tax for which it is legally liable and that the assessed valuation of such real estate was so much greater than its fair cash market value as to be fraudulent and illegal; that other property of like kind and character in the same locality was assessed at its fair cash market value, while the appellant's property had been assessed more than twice its fair cash market value; that the assessors had not exercised their honest judgment in assessing the appellant's property, but had arbitrarily, willfully, and intentionally assessed its real estate at a grossly excessive value in utter disregard of the true value thereof, with the result that there was an unjust discrimination against the appellant, in violation of section 1 of article 9 of the state Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution. The county court overruled the objections and entered judgment for the amount of the taxes in controversy. From that judgment this appeal is prosecuted.

It is stipulated that the people have made out a prima facie case. The appellant introduced evidence, and the appelleeintroduced in rebuttal the evidence of two members of the board of review and no other evidence. It was stipulated on the trial that in 1932 the appellant filed a complaint against its assessment, appeared before the board of review, presented evidence of a character similar to that introduced in the trial before the county court, and exhausted all its legal remedies before the board of review in an effort to get the assessment reduced to the amount claimed to be the fair cash market value of its property, and that there was no question raised in the present proceeding as to any alleged failure of the appellant to exhaust its remedies before such board.

The board of review refused to lower the assessment on any of the appellant's real estate. The aggregate assessed value of the real estate involved is $339,910. The value fixed by the owner is $157,120, that amount representing 40 per cent. of the fair cash market value thereof. The difference in dispute ($181,890) is distributed amongst the different lots and acreage property in question. The property in question is on the island in East St. Louis near the Eads Bridge. All the lots lie north while some of the acreage lies south of the bridge. North of the Eads Bridge, on the river front, there is one small elevator. North of the elevator and towards the head of the island there are two sand companies. There are no other industries on the property. Formerly the Chicago & Alton Railroad and the Wabash Railroad had freight houses there, but these have been abandoned. There are about twenty-five old tenement houses, with a rental value varying from $6.25 to $25 per month, scattered over the property. The houses have deteriorated and some are being wrecked. No issue as to the value of the improvements on the property is raised. No houses have been built in the neighborhood of the property during the last twenty-five years. The principal use of the property is for railroad purposes. Such use is much less than it formerly was. The tendency in the neighborhood at present is towards the abandonment of the railroad property now in use rather than the acquisition of new property. There has been no development north of the Eads Bridge for many years that would make the property desirable for railroad purposes. There is no market for the property at the present time. Its chief value at this time is possibly for industrial sites.

A witness for the appellant who had been employed in the real estate and tax department of the appellant since 1905 identified a map of the property and also a complete list of the property prepared by him, itemized as to each particular tract by proper legal description, the streets on which the property is located, the assessment per front foot and the total assessment of each tract, also the value per front foot as fixed by the owner and the total value of each lot and parcel as fixed by the owner. Both the exhibits were introduced in evidence. The witness described the property in detail, and stated that in his opinion the arbitrary value fixed by the owner was in excess of 40 per cent. of the fair cash market value at the time it was assessed. No sales of property have been made in this immediate neighborhood for several years prior to the hearing in the county court.

The Appellant's Exhibit 3 shows a comparative assessed value between certain property of the appellant and other property in the immediate vicinity owned by others. Too much space would be taken to undertake to go into a comparison of these assessed valuations in detail. Two examples will be sufficient. A lot owned by the appellant is assessed at $2,630; a similar lot just across the alley, which lot is owned by another, is assessed at $1,130. Another lot of the appellant is assessed at $1,980, while a like lot owned by another, which lot is immediately across the alley, is assessed at $840. Other witnesses, who were disinterested and qualified men of affairs in the community and well acquainted with the appellant's property and with property in the immediate neighborhood of such property, testified as to the value of the appellant's property, and that the values as fixed by the owner were in excess of the fair cash market value of such property. One of such witnesses testified that an estate with which he was familiar owned fifteen or twenty lots in the immediate vicinity of the appellant's property. He was the business adviser of the widow of the decedent, and on his advice the widow had ceased paying taxes on the lots and they have been forfeited to the state. Another witness was vice president of the Columbia Terminal Company. He knew the property in question. His company owned 23,000 square feet in the neighborhood of the appellant's property. His company had offered to sell the property for $1 but was unable to find a buyer and had abandoned the property and ceased paying taxes on it.

Evidence was offered of the customary ratio between the assessed value and full value. The evidence shows that both in 1931 and 1932 the State Tax Commission, in assessing railroad property and capital stock, placed the assessed value as 37 per cent. of the...

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