FIRE DISTRICTS, SPECIAL ELECTIONS, BONDS, EXCESS LEVIES FORTY MILL TAX LIMITATION, BALLOT TITLES.
A proposition appearing on a ballot proposing a bond issue for capital purposes for a fire district which is to be retired by levies in excess of the forty mill limitation, must expressly state that the issue will be paid by tax levies in excess of the forty mill tax limitation; the proposition must also state the maximum interest which the bonds may bear.
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December 3, 1952
Honorable John J. O'Connell
Tacoma, Washington Cite as: AGO 51-53 No. 429
You have requested an opinion whether under the below quoted ballot title a fire district is authorized to levy taxes in excess of the forty mill tax limitation to pay for bonds to refinance the purchase of a fire truck and equipment.
The ballot title reads:
"Shall Pierce County Fire Protection District No. 5 sell bonds not to exceed Ten Thousand ($10,000) Dollars whose duration shall be for four (4) years to refinance the purchase of fire truck and equipment."
Our conclusion is that under the above proposition as it appeared on the ballot the fire district is not authorized to levy taxes in excess of the forty mill tax limitation.
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
In your letter you relate:
"The Fire District conducted an election for the purpose of obtaining permission to issue general obligation bonds, pursuant to RCW 52.16.080 to 52.16.120. They put the following proposition before the people for vote and the proposition was carried by a very strong majority of 840 for to 18 against. The ballot title read: [as appears above] * * *"
You further indicate that in the notice of the election no statements were made indicating the bonds were to be paid by levies in excess of the forty mill limitation.
As the bonds were "to refinance the purchase of fire trucks and equipment" those statutes pertaining only to levies for capital purposes need be examined to test the validity of the ballot title as to whether a levy in excess of the forty mill limitation may be made.
Amendment 17 to the Washington Constitution in part provides:
"* * * Such aggregate limitation or any specific limitation imposed by law in conformity therewith may be exceeded only * * *
"(b) By any taxing district otherwise authorized by law to issue general obligation bonds for capital purposes, for the sole purpose of making the required payments of principal and interest on general obligation bonds issued solely for capital purposes, other than the replacement of equipment, when authorized so to do by majority of at least three‑fifths of the electors thereof voting on the proposition to issue such bonds and to pay the principal and interest thereon by an annual tax levy in excess of the limitation herein provided during the term of such bonds, * * *" (Emphasis supplied)
[[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
We interpret the underlined phrase of the above to require the proposition appearing on the ballot expressly to state that the bonds being voted on will be retired by a levy in excess of the forty mill limitation.
While you have not raised the question, we feel it necessary to state that the proposition as worded is defective for the further reason that it does not state the maximum interest which the bonds may bear.
RCW 52.16.090 in providing for elections for proposed bond issues for capital purposes for fire districts in part states:
"* * * Such proposition shall state the purpose or purposes for which such bonds shall be issued, and the amount thereof, the length of time the same shall run,the maximum interest which the same may bear, * * *" (Emphasis ours)
See State v. Clausen, 87 Wash. 111, 151 Pac. 251.
In view of the inadequacies above noted of the wording of the proposition as it appeared on the ballot we feel the fire district is not authorized to levy taxes in excess of the forty mill limitation to retire the bonds which were the subject of the noticed election.
Very truly yours,
Assistant Attorney General