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AGO 1957 No. 22 - February 21, 1957
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

WEED DISTRICTS ‑- AUTHORITY TO INCUR INDEBTEDNESS PRIOR TO FIRST TAX ASSESSMENT IN NEW DISTRICT

Expenses incurred in preparing tax assessment roll in newly created weed district can be paid in following year when funds are available from assessment.

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                                                                February 21, 1957

Honorable Paul Klasen
Prosecuting Attorney
Grant County
Ephrata, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 22


Attention:  Mr. Gary Box, Deputy

Dear Sir:

            In your letter of January 4, 1957, you presented the following question:

            "In view of RCW 17.04.260, limiting the indebtedness of Weed Districts, can the agreed ages of one who prepares the tax assessment roll be paid from the fund of such a District in the subsequent year, the said District having no funds for the year in which the services were rendered?  Is there any way in which such services can be paid?"

            It is the opinion of this office that the wages of the individual who prepared the assessment roll may be paid from the fund of the district in the year following organization, when the moneys have been collected from the assessment.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The statute to which you refer provided as follows:

            "No district may contract any obligation in any year in excess of the revenues which will be available during the current year from the tax levy made in the proceeding year."

            It is apparent that this problem is one which has arisen numerous times in the past as new municipal corporations came into being, and that it will arise in the future where the legislature omits a specific provision in the law authorizing necessary expenditures arising from the formation of a new municipal corporation.  In the case of public utility districts, RCW 54.08.040 specifically authorizes the payment of the expense of an election to form a district by the county with subsequent repayment by the district, if formed.  The port commission of a port district is specifically authorized to borrow money or issue warrants in anticipation of revenues from the tax levy by the provisions of RCW 53.36.040.

            The problem was presented to the supreme court of this state in the case ofIn re Town of Woolley, 75 Wash. 206, where the municipal corporation involved was the town of Woolley.  The court held that the constitutional and statutory debt limitations were not applicable to certain necessary expenses incurred in the organization of a town and that although there were no specific provisions of law authorizing the issuance of warrants for such expenditures prior to any tax levy, a town was acting within its legal authority in issuing such warrants.  The court affirmed the holding of Childs v. Anacortes, 5 Wash. 452, to the effect that the authority to issue warrants or incur indebtedness does not come from the constitution, but that the provisions of the constitution relating to debt limitations merely limit the indebtedness to be incurred, since otherwise towns (municipal corporations) in the process of organization could not do business until after a tax levy or assessment had been made, and moneys paid into the proper treasury or fund, no matter what their necessities or emergencies might be prior to that time.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            In an opinion issued on April 4, 1930, to the prosecuting attorney of Kitsap County, this office held that under the cases, supra, a municipal corporation had been held to have the power to incur such indebtedness as might be necessary to enable it to function up to the time revenues would be available from a regular tax levy made against property within the corporation.  Consequently a newly organized water district, which is a municipal corporation for limited purposes, was held empowered to incur the necessary indebtedness for current operating expenses in advance of the first levy of taxes.  Clearly the reasoning of that opinion is applicable to the present situation and decisive of the problem.  See also an opinion to the prosecuting attorney of Snohomish County, dated March 21, 1922.

            The provisions of RCW 17.04.260, supra, could have no application to a situation arising before any tax levy assessment has been made.  Any decision that such a statute was controlling would in effect prohibit the establishment of any weed district, and would obviously be contrary to the intent of the legislature, in that it would nullify the statute authorizing the creation of weed districts.

            In addition, we should like to call your attention to the following provision of RCW 17.04.250:

            "The county treasurer shall be ex officio treasurer of the district and the other county officers shall take notice of the formation of the district and of the tax levy and shall extend the tax on the tax roll against the property liable therefor the same as other taxes are extended, and the tax shall become a general tax against the property, and shall be collected and accounted for as other taxes with the terms and penalties thereto attached.  The money from the tax shall be paid into a fund to be known as 'fund of weed district No.       of       county."  All expenses in connection with the operation of the district, including the expenses of initial and annual meetings, shall be paid from such fund, upon vouchers approved by the directors."  (Emphasis supplied.)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            By its terms that section is authority for the payment of all expenses, including the expense of the initial meeting, from the fund of the weed district, which only comes into existence after the taxes are assessed and collected.

            Accordingly, it is the opinion of this office that the wages of the individual who prepared the tax assessment roll may be paid from the find of the district in the following year when the moneys have been collected from the assessment.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General


JANE DOWDLE SMITH
Assistant Attorney General

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