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AGO 1952 No. 268 - March 24, 1952
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

THIRD CLASS SCHOOL DISTRICTS' PAYMENT OF JUST BILLS SUBSEQUENT TO FISCAL YEAR IN WHICH THEY AROSE.

Legal obligations of a third class school district for supplies purchased during a fiscal year, but not paid for during such year, may be provided for in the budget for a subsequent fiscal year.

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                                                                  March 24, 1952

Honorable Hugh H. Evans
Prosecuting Attorney
Spokane County
Spokane, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 268

 Attention:  Mr. John Calbom 

Dear Sir: 

            We have received your letter of February 25, 1952, requesting our opinion on a question regarding the payment by third class school districts of bills incurred during a previous fiscal year, and your letter of March 11, 1952, which supplements the information contained in your first letter.

             You have requested our opinion on these questions:

             1.         "Are claims presented for fiscal years prior to a fiscal year just closed, properly provided for in the next budget?"

             2.         "If R.R.S. 4867-9 does limit the inclusion of claims not paid for the fiscal year just closed, then what procedure would be proper for a creditor to collect unpaid accounts from the school district for previous years prior to the fiscal year just closed?"

              [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            Our conclusions may be summarized as follows:

             Legal obligations of a third class school district for supplies purchased during a fiscal year, but not paid for during such year, may be provided for in the budget for a subsequent fiscal year.

                                                                      ANALYSIS

             The answer to your questions depends upon the interpretation of the statutes relating to all school districts as found in RCW 28, chapter 58, as well as those statutes relating to school districts of the second and third class as found in RCW 28, chapter 63.

             In explanation of the problem presented, you state in your letter of February 25, 1952:

             "A third-class school district in Spokane County has been requested to pay unpaid accounts for supplies purchased during the 1949-50 school year and the 1950-51 school year.  Appropriations were provided for in the school budget for the above school years to pay for said supplies.  However, the school district was not billed until December 17, 1951.  There is no appropriation in the current school budget for the payment of the accounts.  The school district admits that the accounts are just and unpaid."

             RCW 28.58.130, which is a codification of Rem. Rev. Stat., § 4784, provides:

             "It shall be unlawful for any board of directors to contract indebtedness against its district in any one year in any sum in excess of the aggregate amount set forth and approved in its final budget.  The members of any board of directors violating any provision of this section shall be personally liable for the full amount thus expended, or contracted for, and each director having a part in such unlawful expenditure shall immediately forfeit his office:  Provided, That no board of directors shall be prohibited from making expenditures for the payment of regular employees and for the necessary repairs, and upkeep of the school plant during the interim while the budget is being settled."

              [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            It is the opinion of this office that under the provisions of RCW 28.58.130, supra, the legality of a contract to purchase supplies by the board of directors of a third class school district depends in part upon the sufficiency of funds in the budget at the time the contract was entered into.  The contract is the legal obligation of the district if at the time the contract was entered into, there were sufficient funds in the budget to pay for the supplies contracted for.  On the other hand, if there were not sufficient funds in the budget to pay for the supplies at the time the contract was made, the contract is not legal and the district is not bound thereby.  (This analysis does not include the emergency provisions of RCW 28.63.170, nor the proviso contained in RCW 28.58.130, and we do not here express an opinion on those provisions).

             In order to ascertain the amount of funds in the budget at any given time it is necessary to subtract from the aggregate amount of the budget the amount necessary to pay all legal commitments entered into theretofore.

             In answer to your first question, it is our opinion that legal obligations of a third class school district, as above defined, when not paid during the fiscal year in which they arose, may be provided for in the next budget pursuant to RCW 28.63.100, and 28.58.120.

             We think our answer to your first question obviates the necessity of answering your second question.  In this regard we wish to call to your attention that Rem. Rev. Stat., § 4867-9, to which you refer in your second question, relates only to first class school districts.

 Very truly yours,
SMITH TROY
Attorney General 

C. R. NELSON
Assistant Attorney General

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