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AGO 1955 No. 136 - September 12, 1955
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

ELECTIONS ‑- TAXES ‑- BALLOT TITLE ‑- SCHOOL DISTRICT ELECTIONS AND EXCESS LEVIES

1955 School District levies are to be imposed upon assessed valuations determined pursuant to Ch. 253, Laws of 1955.

A proposition for an excess levy stated in terms of rate of levy authorizes a levy to the full extent of the stated rate although the proposition also states that such levy will yield an approximate sum of money.

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                                                              September 12, 1955

Honorable H. Dan Bracken, Jr.
Chairman
State Tax Commission
Insurance Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 136

Dear Sir:

            You have requested our opinion in answer to the below stated questions arising out of the adoption at a school district election held November 2, 1954, of the following proposition:

            "Shall a tax levy of 30 mills in excess of the maximum tax levy provided for by law be made on the assessed valuation of the NORTH THURSTON School District No. 3 and the proceeds thereof amounting to approximately $126,000.00 used, immediately through incurring an indebtedness against the district by the issuance of warrants against the building fund of the district, to pay the cost of completing and equipping the new North Thurston High School?"

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            You inquire

            (1) Whether the special levy authorized by the above proposition will be affected by chapter 253, Laws of 1955;

            (2) Whether the inclusion of the specific sum of money on the proposition as it appeared on the ballot, limits to that amount the tax which may be levied by the Board of Directors of the school district; and

            (3) If the affirmative vote on the above proposition authorized an excess levy of 30 mills, regardless of the amount such levy would yield, whether the Board of Directors has authority nonetheless to levy taxes in an amount less than that which the full 30 mills will yield.

            Our answers to each of the above questions are set forth in order below.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            (1) Under chapter 253, Laws of 1955, the assessed valuation for purposes of school district levies is to be the valuation placed upon taxable properties within the respective school districts in accordance with the provisions of that act.  The election about which you inquire authorized an excess levy which manifestly could not be made until October 1955, see RCW 28.59.120 and 28.63.150.  Chapter 253 carried an emergency clause and became effective immediately.  Consequently, all school district levies imposed in October of 1955 will be imposed with respect to the assessed valuation as determined in accordance with chapter 253, and in this respect the special levy will be affected by that act.

            (2) The wording of the proposition itself as printed on the ballot appears to answer your second question.  In substance the proposition submitted to the electorate was:  "Shall a tax levy of 30 mills in excess of the maximum tax levy permitted by law be made * * *."  In accepting the proposition,  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] the electorate authorized an excess levy in terms of rate of levy.  While the proposition informed that the suggested rate would yield approximately $126,000, the question was nevertheless clearly phrased in terms of a rate of levy.  The further fact that the specific sum was expressly stated to be only approximate, indicates that it was included for purposes of information only.

            At the time this election was held a proposition could have been phrased in terms either of a specific rate of levy or a specific sum of money.  However, chapter 105, Laws of 1955, now requires that propositions to authorize excess levies must set forth the specific amount of dollars to be authorized together with an estimate of the millage required to produce such an amount.  This requirement, of course, has no application to the election about which you inquire.

            Your second question must be answered by stating that the school directors, pursuant to the proposition as accepted, are authorized to levy the full 30 mills on the assessed valuation of the district without reference to the specific sum of money which the proposition stated would be approximately produced by the levy.

            (3) Much of what we have already said is applicable in answer to your third question.  A favorable vote on the proposition constitutes merely an authorization to the directors to levy taxes up to the stated millage rate.  While the election may have constituted a mandate to the school directors to budget in the current year for the cost of equipping the high school, the electorate did not thereby inflexibly require a levy to the full extent of the authorized rate.  A levy to the full extent authorized might in fact exceed the requirements of the budgeted expenditures and result in an unlawful accumulation of surplus contrary to public policy.  SeePacific etc. Assn. v. Pierce County, 27 Wn. (2d) 347, 178 P. (2d) 351, andWeyerhaeuser Timber Co. v. Roessler, 2 Wn. (2d) 304, 97 P. (2d) 1070.

            Thus, while the electorate authorized a special levy not to exceed 30 mills, the rate of levy to be imposed under that authorization should  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] be no greater than necessary to produce the funds needed to carry out the purpose for which the authorization was given.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

KEITH GRIM
Assistant Attorney General

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