COUNTIES ‑- TRANSFER OF FUNDS ‑- HOSPITAL FUNDS TRANSFERRED TO FAIRGROUND BUILDING AND IMPROVEMENT FUND ‑-COUNTY FAIRS ‑- LIMITATION ON AMOUNT SPENT FOR IMPROVEMENTS.
1. The county electorate may transfer funds from Special Hospital Building funds, where building plans have been abandoned, into a Fairground Building and Improvement Fund by a simple majority vote.
2. Expenditures from this new Fairground Building and Improvement Fund would be limited by RCW 36.37.040.
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May 5, 1954
Honorable Joe L. Johnson
Cowlitz County Court House
Kelso, Washington Cite as: AGO 53-55 No. 251
Attention: Mr. Frank L. Price
We have received your request of April 15, 1954, previously acknowledged, requesting our opinion on questions arising from the following facts: In 1938, the voters of Cowlitz County voted a two mill special levy for the purpose of raising funds to build a joint county tuberculosis hospital. In 1940, the same voters voted to transfer half of the above proceeds to a special fund to build a county hospital and at the same time voted a one mill levy for the purpose of building said hospital. Neither hospital has been built and plans for both have been abandoned.
You request our opinion on these two questions:
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1. Can the county commissioners transfer these funds into a fund to be used for the purpose of construction and improvement of buildings on the presently established fairgrounds, providing such transfer be authorized by a majority of the voters of the county voting upon the question at an election?
2. If such funds can be transferred to a Fairground Building and Improvement Fund, would expenditures be limited by RCW 36.37.040?
Our conclusion is that both questions should be answered in the affirmative.
RCW 36.33.040 provides in part as follows:
"No money in any cumulative reserve fund shall be used for any purpose other than that for which the fund was created except:
"* * *
"(2) If the purpose of the creation of a cumulative reserve fund ceases to exist or is abandoned, the fund or any part thereof, may be transferred to any other cumulative reserve fund or to the county current expense fund by order of the board after a public hearing thereon pursuant to a notice by publication: Provided, That if the amount to be transferred exceeds fifty thousand dollars, no transfer may be made until authorized by a majority of the voters of the county voting upon the question at an election."
This act clearly allows the board of county commissioners to transfer funds under the present conditions existing where the project has been abandoned. The only possible objection to the application of the statute would be that we are not dealing with cumulative reserve funds. Both of these funds were established before RCW 36.33.020 was enacted into law. This act provides as follows:
"The board of county commissioners may establish a cumulative reserve fund for the construction of a [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] particular building or improvement and annually budget and levy a tax therefor. It may also accept gifts and make transfers from the current expense fund for that purpose."
Under this act, the board of county commissioners could have established a cumulative reserve fund for the construction of the buildings. We think the statute is also broad enough to redesignate the existing funds as cumulative reserve funds within the meaning of the statute. Thereafter, such cumulative reserve funds could be transferred as provided for in the act quoted above; RCW 36.33.040.
It should also be mentioned that the majority vote of the electorate will be needed for this transfer since the total amount to be so transferred exceeds $50,000.
RCW 36.37.040 reads as follows:
"Appropriations by boards of county commissioners in any one year for the purpose of acquiring property for, and the maintenance of, such fairs shall be limited according to the following schedule:
"Counties of more than one hundred thousand, ten thousand dollars;
"Counties of between one hundred thousand and fifty thousand, seven thousand five hundred dollars;
"Counties of between fifty thousand and twenty-five thousand, five thousand dollars;
"Counties under twenty-five thousand, two thousand five hundred dollars.
"The board of county commissioners of any county may also expend a sum not exceeding ten thousand dollars in any one year, to be used only for the purpose of acquiring necessary grounds for such county [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] or district fair, the construction and improvement of buildings thereon, and the payment of premiums."
The statute is an absolute limitation upon the amount any board of county commissioners can expend in any one year on the county fair and grounds. See AGO 3/12/47 to the Prosecuting Attorney of Klickitat County; also AGO 8/18/41 to the Chief Examiner, Division of Municipal Corporations.
The population of Cowlitz County being slightly over 50,000 would allow the board to expend $7,500 for the purpose of acquiring property for, and the maintenance of such fairs plus $10,000 to be used only for the purpose of acquiring necessary grounds. Incidentally there is no conflict in these two provisions, the later making provision for the acquisition of fair grounds and buildings, while the former authorizes annual maintenance and additional property. (See AGO 8/18/41,supra.)
The money not used in the fair ground and improvement fund can be continued as a cumulative reserve fund as authorized by RCW 36.33.020,supra. The fund will then be subject to the limitation on a yearly basis as shown by RCW 36.37.040.
It is therefore our opinion that this special fund can be set up by the board of county commissioners, subject to the majority vote of the electorate. The expenditures of said fund, however, will be limited by RCW 36.37.040.
Very truly yours,
WALTER WEBSTER, JR.
Assistant Attorney General