T. G. Kavanagh, C. J. Levin, Fitzgerald, and Coleman, JJ., concurred with T. G. Kavanagh, C. J. Lindemer and Ryan, JJ., took no part in the decision of this case. Williams, J. (concurring in part, Dissenting in part).
1. Taxation -- Community Colleges -- Rate -- Limit -- Bonds.
Community colleges are authorized by statute to impose taxes without limit as to rate for the payment of principal and interest on bonds (MCLA 389.144).
2. Taxation -- Community Colleges -- Rate -- Limit -- Bonds.
A community college which had been authorized by the electorate to impose an unrestricted 1.5-mill levy was authorized by law to impose a levy of 1.62 mills composed of 1.30 mills for operating expenses and 0.32 mill for bond retirement, because the amount for bond retirement is not subject to the rate limitation (MCLA 389.144).
3. Taxation -- Levy -- Community Colleges -- County Board of Commissioners -- Mandamus.
The inquiry of a county board of commissioners when a community college seeks to impose a tax levy is limited to whether the levy is "authorized by law"; if the levy is authorized, the board has no discretion to refuse to spread it, and mandamus is the proper remedy to compel performance of its duty (MCLA 211.37).
4. Taxation -- Community Colleges -- Levy -- Rate -- Elections -- Misleading Proposal -- Remedies.
The proper means to challenge an election when a ballot proposal for authorization of a tax rate for a community college is misleading is to bring a statutory action to void the election (MCLA 389.16, 600.4545).
5. Taxation -- Levy -- County Board of Commissioners -- Mandamus -- Defenses.
The defense of equitable estoppel on the ground that a ballot proposal for authorization of a tax rate was misleading is not available in an action for mandamus against a county board of commissioners to compel spreading an authorized levy where the statutory procedure for voiding the election was not followed (MCLA 600.4545).
Opinion Concurring in Part and Dissenting in Part
6. Taxation -- Community Colleges -- Tax Rate -- Termination Date -- Elections.
A new tax rate authorized by electors for a community college was intended to have same termination date as the rate which it replaced where the language of the ballot stated that the new authorization "shall replace" the old authorization, there was no reference to a specific termination date on the ballot, and campaign literature in support of the new rate created the impression that no new termination date was intended by the community college trustees.
7. Taxation -- Community Colleges -- Tax Rate -- Termination Date -- Elections -- Misleading Proposal -- Remedies.
The doctrine of equitable estoppel should apply and an authorized millage for a community college should be held to terminate on the date suggested by representations made by the community college in campaign material for the taxation election, if the college did not intend that termination date but the public has relied on those representations.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kavanagh
In 1968, plaintiff Delta College sought and obtained from the electorate authorization to replace the 1958 millage of 1 mill for debt retirement and 0.5 mill for operating expenses with an unrestricted 1.5-mill levy pursuant to the Community College Act of 1966 (MCLA 389.144; MSA 15.615). In 1972 plaintiff's board of trustees approved a levy of 1.62 mills composed of 1.30 mills for operating expenses and 0.32 mill for bond retirement. The Saginaw County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution disapproving plaintiff's levy in excess of 1.5 mills, and spread a levy of 1.5 mills. Plaintiff sought mandamus, alleging that the defendant board of commissioners had a clear legal duty to direct the assessing officers of Saginaw County to levy taxes as certified by plaintiff. Defendant pled equitable estoppel, alleging that plaintiff misled the voters into thinking that no millage greater than 1.5 mills would be authorized. The Saginaw Circuit Court, Joseph R. McDonald, J., denied the writ. The Court of Appeals, Quinn, P. J., and Holbrook and Peterson, JJ., reversed (Docket No. 15432). The Saginaw County Board of Commissioners appeal. Held:
1. The clear legal duty of the board of commissioners to act, necessary for mandamus, is found in the general property tax law, which requires the board to direct that levies authorized by law be spread on the assessment rolls. Since the 1972 levy of plaintiff was authorized by Const 1963, art 9, § 6, and § 144 of the Community College Act of 1966, the board of commissioners had no discretion to refuse to spread the levy.
2. The remedy for a misleading ballot proposal is to void the election as mandated by § 16 of the Community College Act of 1966 and § 4545 of the Revised Judicature Act; the defense of equitable estoppel may not be used to accomplish that result indirectly.
Williams, J., concurred but wrote that the issue of the termination date of the 1968 levy was raised by the parties and should be resolved by the Court. The new tax rate was intended to have the same termination date as the old rate which it replaced and the doctrine of equitable estoppel applies to the representations made by the college in campaign literature which suggested that the termination date of the new levy would be the same.
Plaintiff college was organized under the Community College Act of 1955, 1955 PA 188, the predecessor of the Community College Act of 1966, MCLA 389.1 et seq.; MSA 15.615(101), et seq. In 1958 plaintiff sought and obtained its first grant of tax authority. The electorate approved a 20-year levy not to exceed 1 mill for debt retirement and not to exceed .5 mill for operating expenses.
In 1968 plaintiff sought and obtained from the electorate authorization to replace the 1958 millage with an unrestricted 1.5-mill levy pursuant to § 144 of the Community College Act of 1966; MCLA 389.144; MSA 15.615(1144).
That section requires the board of trustees of each community college to seek authorization from the voters for any tax up to a maximum of 5 mills. However, that section also empowers the ...