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AGO 1954 No. 338 - November 03, 1954
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

SCHOOLS ‑- UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICTS ‑- POWER OF COMPONENT DISTRICTS TO ISSUE BONDS

A union high school district, and the component school district are separate entities, and as such are each able to indebt themselves to the maximum allowable under Amendment 27 of the Washington Constitution.

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                                                                November 3, 1954

Honorable Herb Hanson
State Representative, 39th District
Route 4
Snohomish, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 338


Dear Sir:

            In your letter of August 9, 1954, you presented the following problem:

            After a union high school district has indebted itself to the limit under Amendment 27 of the Washington constitution, may the component districts within the union high school district incur any additional indebtedness for grade and intermediate school purposes?

            It is our opinion that the union high school district, and the component school district are separate entities, and as such are each able to indebt themselves to the maximum allowable under Amendment 27 of the Washington Constitution.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Amendment 27, amending Article VIII, § 6, approved November 4, 1952, provides as follows:

            "No county, city, town, school district, or other  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] municipal corporation shall for any purposebecome indebted in any manner to an amount exceeding one and one‑half percentum of the taxable property in such county, city, town, school district, or other municipal corporation, without the assent of three‑fifths of the voters therein voting at an election to be held for that purpose, nor in cases requiring such assent shall the total indebtedness at any time exceed five percentum on the value of the taxable property therein, to be ascertained by the last assessment for state and county purposes previous to the incurring of such indebtedness, except that in incorporated cities the assessment shall be taken from the last assessment for city purposes:  Provided, That no part of the indebtedness allowed in this section shall be incurred for any purpose other than strictly county, city, town, school district, or other municipal purposes:  Provided further, That (a) any city or town, with such assent, may be allowed to become indebted to a larger amount, but not exceeding five percentum additional for supplying such city or town with water, artificial light, and sewers, when the works for supplying such water, light and sewers shall be owned and controlled by the municipality and (b) any school district with such assent, may be allowed to become indebted to a larger amount but not exceeding five percentum additional for capital outlays."

            A school district, under this amendment, may issue a possible five percent bonded indebtedness with the assent of three‑fifths of the qualified voters in the district, and an additional five percent with such assent for capital outlays.

            In order to determine whether the component districts within the union high school district may indebt themselves for an additional amount for grade school purposes, we must first clarify our terms.

            A "school district," as defined in RCW 28.57.020, is a "territory under the jurisdiction of a single governing board designated and referred to as the  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] board of directors."

            A "union high school district" is a grouping of school districts for high school purposes; several school districts united to form a single high school district.

            The question is then raised whether the union high school is a part of the individual school districts, or whether it is a separate and distinct taxing district or municipal corporation governing only the high schools in the area concerned.  InState ex rel. Bell v. Thaanum, 74 Wash. 58 at 59 (1913), the court said in part that

            "* * * in the consolidation of districts the districts consolidated lose their individuality and become a new and distinct entity, * * *"

            RCW 28.57.310 providing for the board of directors of union high school districts indicates that the several boards of directors shall be the board for the new union high school district.

            "* * *Provided, That in a union high school district comprising three or more school districts, the board of directors thereof shall be composed of the chairmen of the several boards of directors of the districts comprised in such union high school district.  * * *" (Emphasis supplied)

            Therefore it would appear that though the school districts have consolidated to form the union high school district, a separate entity, they also have maintained their present school districts and boards for other purposes.  Such other purposes will of course include the management and financing of the grade and intermediate schools.  The districts each have separate governing bodies and so will qualify under the school district definition of RCW 28.57.020.  Therefore, under Amendment 27, of the Washington constitution, each school district may issue bonds up to the amount of ten percent, and the union high school district may levy another ten percent covering the same area.  Limitations,  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] however, on this rule are that for bonded indebtedness over one and one‑half percent, three‑fifths of the voters in the area must approve.  That the limit is five percent unless the additional amount is for capital outlay, and three‑fifths of the voters consent to the increase.  With these limitations, therefore, both districts could issue bonds up to ten percent of the taxable property in the district, making a possible twenty percent indebtedness in the area covered by both districts.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General


E. ALBERT MORRISON
Assistant Attorney General

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