SCHOOL DISTRICTS ‑- SPECIAL ELECTIONS ‑- USE OF PUBLIC FUNDS TO ADVERTISE.
The cost of printing and distributing brochures advising the electors concerning a proposition to be voted on at a special election is an unauthorized expenditure of public funds and not an allowable claim.
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May 5, 1953
Honorable Edward G. Cross
Prosecuting Attorney Adams County
Ritzville, Washington Cite as: AGO 53-55 No. 33
This will acknowledge receipt of your letter of April 28, 1953, in which you propound the following question:
Is the cost of printing and distributing a brochure describing a proposed gymnasium, the financing of which was the proposition to be voted upon at a special election, a valid claim against the school district?
In our opinion, this is an unauthorized expenditure of public funds and not an allowable claim.
Notice of school district elections is provided for by RCW 28.63.240. Your letter indicates that the school district has complied with this section of the code. RCW 28.58.100 enumerates the general powers of school directors. Since a school district is a municipal corporation created by the legislature, its board of directors can exercise only such powers as the legislature has expressly granted, or which may be fairly implied or incident to the powers granted. Seattle High School Chapter No. 200 v. Sharples, 159 Wash. 424. An examination of the statute setting out the powers of directors reveals no authority to utilize public funds for the advertisement of such a special election other than the statutory notice provision.
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Prior opinions of this office have ruled (1) that a school board may not authorize the school printing plant to provide the electors with information concerning a special school election, and (2) that the School Directors' Association may not legally make a contribution of public funds to a group which was promulgating certain school bond initiative measures. The validity of the expenditure of public funds to influence legislation was specifically denied in the cases ofState ex rel. Port of Seattle v. The Superior Court of King County, 93 Wash. 267, and Port of Seattle ex rel. Dunbar v. Lamping, 135 Wash. 569.
We have examined the brochure you enclosed. It does not undertake to tell the voters which way to vote on the proposition specifically, but the following sentence illustrates the theme of the message: "We believe the proposition presented for your approval is sound and reasonable." Concededly, to get a large percentage of voters to the polls and to acquaint them with the propositions on the ballot are each admirable objectives. But, in the absence of statutory authority, school directors may not employ school district funds to attain such objectives.
We conclude that the cost of printing and distributing the brochures is not an allowable claim against the school district because it does not fall within the scope of powers expressly or impliedly delegated to school boards.
Very truly yours,
Assistant Attorney General