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AGO 1952 No. 356 - July 23, 1952
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

SCHOOL DISTRICTS ‑- ACQUISITION OF NEW SCHOOL SITE ‑- WHERE DISTRICTS MERGED INTO SINGLE DISTRICT PREVIOUSLY OWNED SCHOOL SITES ‑- SIMPLE MAJORITY OR TWO-THIRDS VOTE

A school district created by the reorganization of two previously existing districts, each of which had a school site at the time of the reorganization, which had been selected by the majority vote of the respective districts, cannot acquire a new school site except upon a favorable two-thirds vote of the district at a regular or special election.

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                                                                    July 23, 1952

Honorable R. DeWitt Jones
Prosecuting Attorney
Clark County
301 Court House
Vancouver, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 356

Dear Sir:

            By letter of April 2, 1952, as supplemented by subsequent discussions by telephone with Mrs. June Fowles of this office, and by your letter of June 25, 1952, you have requested our opinion on questions relating to the attempt of the Felida-Salmon Creek School District of Clark County to acquire a new school site.

            From the information which you have submitted it appears that the Felida-Salmon Creek School District was created just prior to 1950 as the result of the reorganization of, and as the successor to, the previously existing Felida and Salmon Creek School Districts.  At the time of the reorganization the Salmon Creek and Felida Districts each had a school site and building, both of which the Felida-Salmon Creek School District took over and has continued to use since the reorganization.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            By your letter of April 2, 1952, you state that at a special election in November 1950 the proposition of acquiring a new school site was submitted to the electors of the district and that at that time the "Bliss Site" and the "Bowdler Site" received a simple majority favorable vote.  You further state that again in 1951 the electors voted at a special election on the Bliss Site and a third site known as the Knowles Site, which in each instance received a majority favorable vote.  You state that:

            "* * * It is clear that if we consider that the Salmon Creek-Felida School District had two school sites representing the sites which were in use when the district was formed, that the electors have failed to authorize a change of site by a two-thirds majority as required in Rem. Rev. Stat. Section 4819.  * * *"

            You ask our opinion as follows:

            "* * * In this respect I would appreciate your opinion as to whether or not the majority vote as noted was sufficient under the existing statutes to authorize the Board to acquire the Bliss property, or whether it is your opinion that the consolidated district could not select a new site or establish school at other than the two sites in existence at the time of consolidation without a 2/3 favorable majority."

            It is our conclusion that a school district created by the reorganization of two previously existing districts, each of which had a school site at the time of the reorganization, which had been selected by the majority vote of the respective districts, cannot acquire a new school site except upon a favorable two-thirds vote of the district at a regular or special election.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            We assume that the school site which the Felida and Salmon Creek Districts had prior to the reorganization had been approved by a majority vote of their respective districts.  By the reorganization proceedings the Felida and Salmon Creek School Districts were merged into the Felida-Salmon Creek District.  Although this resulted in a combined new district, we believe that when the new district succeeded to the interests of the old districts in and to their respective  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] school sites, such school sites so acquired by the new district retained the same status which they had when they were owned by the individual districts.  The sites were still those which, at the time of acquisition, had been approved by a majority vote of their district.

            Under the provisions of RCW 28.63.180 (Rem. Rev. Stat. § 4819), "a schoolhouse, * * * already built on a site which has been selected by a majority vote of the district shall not be removed to a new site without a two-thirds vote of the district".  This prohibition, we believe, applies to your situation and it is our opinion that the Felida-Salmon Creek District may not change to a new school site, except by a two-thirds favorable vote of the district.

            Although the point with which we are here concerned was not directly involved, the general discussions of the statutory requirement in prior opinions issued by this office to the prosecuting attorney of Yakima County under date of July 21, 1947, and to the prosecuting attorney of Whitman County under the date of June 9, 1949 [[Opinion No. 49-51-61]], support our conclusion herein, and we have heretofore sent you copies of these two opinions.

            You further state that an escrow agreement was entered into and a payment deposited for the purchase of the Knowles Site subject to the approval of the legality of the transaction.  Inasmuch as the school district has not been authorized by the necessary two-thirds vote to purchase such site, the escrow agreement cannot be carried out.  It being an escrow arrangement, the entire agreement can, we believe, be cancelled by an instrument of mutual release.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

FRED L. HARLOCKER
Assistant Attorney General

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