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AGO 1955 No. 39 - March 10, 1955
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

NURSING HOMES, AUTHORITY OF COUNTY, TO OPERATE, TO MAKE APPROPRIATIONS, EMERGENCY EXPENDITURES, TAX LEVY.

A county may maintain and operate a nursing home, and for such purpose may make appropriations and levy taxes therefor.

A county may maintain and operate a nursing home, and where it does shall make budget provisions and levy taxes therefor and is authorized to make emergency expenditures where subsequent to the adoption of the budget the state fire marshal, pursuant to statutory authority, ordered repairs or improvements necessary for its continued operation which could not reasonably have been foreseen at time of making the budget.

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                                                                   March 10, 1955

Honorable Sid Buckley
Prosecuting Attorney
Stevens County Court House
Colville, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 39

 Dear Sir:

             You have asked the opinion of this office on the following questions:

             1. May a county operate a nursing home under any statutory provision?

           2. Does an emergency exist authorizing the expenditure of funds in excess of the budget appropriation, where the state fire marshal, subsequent to the adoption of the budget, ordered changes and improvements in hospital facilities not contemplated in the budget but ordered by him to be made as a prerequisite to its continued operation?

             3. May a county budget for capital improvements and costs of operation and maintenance of the hospital or nursing home?

             4. Is there any authority for a board of county commissioners to make a tax  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] levy for the capital outlay or maintenance and operation of a nursing home or hospital?

                                                                      ANALYSIS

             We answer all foregoing questions in the affirmative.

             (1) A county may operate a nursing home.  In addition to the general statutory authority given the state department of health to provide

             "* * * needed medical, dental and allied services to recipients of public assistance and medical indigents * * *" (RCW 74.08.390)

             the department is directed to provide allied services including

             "* * * nursing home care, (except subsistence which shall be the responsibility of the department of social security [department of public assistance]) and * * * may utilize county hospitals and county infirmaries as determined necessary."  (RCW 74.08.420)

             Consequently, there is special authorization in the statute for the state department of health and a county to make arrangements for the utilization of county facilities to provide nursing home care for recipients of public assistance.

             Furthermore, in two opinions rendered by this office (AGO 53-55 No. 284 [[to J. A. Kahl, Department of Health on July 15, 1954]]and AGO 53-55 No. 302 [[to M. Sensney, Prosecuting Attorney, Benton County on August 23, 1954]]copies of which are enclosed, we specifically held that counties were authorized to maintain and operate nursing homes under the provisions of the statutes above cited.

             (2) A county is authorized to make expenditures to maintain and operate a nursing home where a public emergency arises which could not reasonably have been foreseen at the time of making the budget.

             Since counties are authorized to maintain and operate nursing homes, they are authorized to make emergency expenditures necessary for their continued  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] proper use where conditions have arisen since the adoption of the budget which could not reasonably have been foreseen at the time of making the budget.

             It would appear that the action of the state fire marshal, acting pursuant to authority given him by statute, requiring certain improvements to be made in the condition of the premises utilized as a hospital or nursing home in order to permit it to be continued to be used for such purposes, coming as it did after the adoption of the budget providing for such functions, would constitute an emergency as contemplated under the budget law authorizing the expenditure pursuant to proceedings had as required in the statute.  (RCW 36.40.140)

             This is a factual question, however, to be determined by the board of county commissioners under the procedure provided by the statute.

             (3) The authority of the county to maintain and operate a hospital or nursing home carries with it the authority to make budget provisions therefor.

             It is necessary corollary to the power given a public agency to provide a service or perform a duty, to make budget provisions therefor within the limitations of the statute.

             (4) A county maintaining a hospital is required to levy a tax therefor, and may make provision in its budgets for maintaining a nursing home, but in either instance, must be within the eight mill limitation imposed by statute, except where an excess levy is authorized by the voters.

             We have ruled (AGO 51-53 No. 245) [[to J. A. Kahl, Department of Health on March 3, 1952]]that it is mandatory upon a county which has a county hospital to levy a tax for its maintenance (RCW 36.62.090).  We have also ruled (AGO 55-57 No. 11) [[to John Panesko, Prosecuting Attorney, Lewis County on January 17, 1955]]that such a levy may not exceed the eight mill limitation imposed under RCW 84.52.050 unless the voters have authorized an excess levy under RCW 84.52.052.

             From the foregoing, it will be seen that under the particular circumstances with which you are confronted the future budget provisions must come within the eight mill county levy in any event, unless an excess levy is authorized by the voters.  The county commissioners, in considering the annual budget must fix and determine the expenditures to be authorized for each office,  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] department, service or institution for the ensuing fiscal year.  (RCW 36.40.040 and 36.40.050).  This function necessarily entails a balancing of the estimated receipts and expenditures; and where they are out of balance, either an apportionment or provision for increased receipts by way of possible excess levies must be made.

             We trust the foregoing satisfactorily answers your inquiry.

 Very truly yours,
DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General 

MITCHELL DOUMIT
Assistant Attorney General

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