River Forest Officials Rebuked for Enforcing Illegal Tax Contract
In an opinion issued Friday from the First District Appellate Court of Illinois, Judges Sheldon Harris, Mary Mikva, and Oden Johnson stated that an illegal contract imposed upon Keystone Montessori School by the Village of River Forest was in fact void.
The invalidity of the contract was sustained from a previous ruling in 2019 because the terms were contrary to public policy. This is a long-awaited victory for Keystone Montessori and vindication for a politically motivated and costly battle that was dragged on for several years by the Village in order to incur more financial damage to the School.
“Keystone is delighted that yet another court has vindicated our school,” said Director of the School, Vicki Shea. “We rejoice with our students and their families as well as all of our neighbors who have come to appreciate and support Keystone’s presence in the community. We hope that Illinois Appellate Court’s rebuke of the Village of River Forest will suffice to get it to drop its longstanding lawsuit and allow Keystone to continue its service.”
John Mauck, attorney for Keystone, said, “The obstinate insistence by the Village of River Forest to enforce an illegal contract has harmed many. But Keystone is certainly gratified that the appellate court has confirmed the opinion of the circuit judge that a real estate tax exemption is a ‘quintessential right’ for schools.”
Since the contract was first enforced in 1998, Keystone has paid over 1.1 million dollars in property taxes, which eventually took a toll on the School’s ability to serve its students and families. It officially filed suit in 2018 to invalidate the agreement with River Forest once it realized such terms were against the law, which the courts have upheld.
The next step for Keystone will be to rightfully reclaim their Illinois State real estate tax exemption after the Village of River Forest appealed the Illinois Department of Revenue’s decision which formerly granted one to the school. The school’s attorneys at Mauck & Baker predict these appeal proceedings will also be in the School’s favor since this most recent ruling states it is entitled to one.
Although they were wrongly implementing an illegal contract for over 20 years, the Village of River Forest will not have to reimburse the School for unjust enrichment and will not have sanctions imposed upon them.