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AGO 1957 No. 78 - June 03, 1957
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

COUNTIES ‑- EMERGENCY APPROPRIATIONS ‑- TRANSFER OF FUNDS

County commissioners may declare an emergency to aid the assessor in carrying out provisions of the property revaluation act, but the tuberculosis hospitalization fund may not be used to pay the emergency warrants.

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                                                                    June 3, 1957

Honorable Sid Buckley
Prosecuting Attorney
Stevens County
Colville, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 78


Dear Sir:

            You have requested our opinion as to whether the county assessor can obtain additional funds through an emergency appropriation for the purpose of carrying out the revaluation of property program required by chapter 84.41 RCW.  You state that the assessor had included an additional sum for this purpose in his budget request for 1957, but that the county commissioners, believing the assessor could complete the program without additional funds, denied the increase in the appropriation.  It now appears that the assessor must have more money if the revaluation program is to be completed on time.

            You further ask, in the event an emergency may be declared, whether the emergency warrants may be paid by a transfer from the county tuberculosis fund, the only fund in which a surplus exists.

            We answer your first question in the affirmative, and your second in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Chapter 251, Laws of 1955, which has been codified as chapter 84.41 RCW, makes provision for the revaluation of all property within  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] each county for the purpose of correcting the inequality and nonuniformity in valuations which have been in existence throughout the state.  RCW 84.41.010 reads in part as follows:

            ". . . Such nonuniformity results in inequality in taxation contrary to standards of fairness and uniformity required and established by the Constitution and is of such flagrant and widespread occurrence as to constitute a grave emergency adversely affecting state and local government and the welfare of all the people."

            RCW 84.41.030 provides that the program of revaluation shall proceed at a rate which will result in the revaluation of all taxable property before June 1, 1958.  It is said in RCW 84.41.050:

            "Each county assessor in budgets hereafter submitted, shall make adequate provision to effect county-wide revaluations as herein directed.  The several boards of county commissioners in passing upon budgets submitted by the several assessors, shall authorize and levy amounts which in the judgment of the board will suffice to carry out the directions of this chapter."

            From this latter section it is apparent that the board of county commissioners, exercising its sound judgment, must provide sufficient funds to enable the assessor to effectuate the program.  Because the appropriation as made in your county now proves to be insufficient, an emergency exists, which must be met if the intent of the law is to be given effect.  If it can be said that the emergency could not reasonably have been foreseen at the time of making the budget (which is a question of fact involving an element of discretion on the part of the board, State ex rel. Porter v. Superior Court, 145 Wash. 551) an emergency can be declared under RCW 36.40.140.

            As for the second question, emergency warrants are to be paid from any monies on hand in the fund properly chargeable therewith.  If there are not sufficient funds to pay them they shall be registered, bear interest, and be called in the manner provided by law.  RCW 36.40.190.  Under chapter 70.32 RCW, the tuberculosis hospitalization fund is made up of a tax  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] levy in a sum equal to 6/10ths of a mill on the assessed valuation of the taxable property in the county, of income which may accrue from miscellaneous receipts in connection with tuberculosis hospitalization, and of moneys received through state aid.  This fund is to be used for the payment of tuberculosis hospitalization.  However, if the county has an unexpended balance from the tax levy above the amount required for adequate hospitalization of tuberculosis cases, the county commissioners may budget and reappropriate it for the same purpose for the ensuing year or may allocate it from time to time to the county health department for tuberculosis case finding or other disease prevention control.

            The use of the tuberculosis fund is thus limited to the purposes set forth in the statute.  It may not be used for the payment of emergency warrants issued for the county assessor's office.  Taxes levied for a specific purpose cannot be used for some other purpose.  Thompson v. Pierce County, 113 Wash. 237.  In accord with this ruling are prior opinions of this office, one to the prosecuting attorney of Adams County dated February 27, 1945, and one to the prosecuting attorney of Stevens County dated November 26, 1947.  Both of these opinions concern the use of the tuberculosis fund.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General


HENRY W. WAGER
Assistant Attorney General

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