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AGO 1952 No. 370 - August 08, 1952
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICTS ‑- MAY A FIRE DISTRICT ISSUE GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS FOR THE PURPOSE OF ACQUIRING REPLACEMENT FIRE FIGHTING EQUIPMENT

A fire protection district may issue general obligation bonds for the purpose of acquiring replacement fire fighting equipment under the provisions of chapter 24, Laws of 1951, Second Ex. Sess.

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                                                                  August 8, 1952

Honorable Hugh H. Evans
Prosecuting Attorney
Spokane County
Spokane 1, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 370

Attention:  Willard J. Sharpe

Dear Sir:

            In your letter of May 28, 1952, you inquire:

            "May a fire district issue general obligation bonds for the purpose of acquiringreplacement fire fighting equipment under the provisions of Chapter 24 of the Laws of 1951, Second Extraordinary Session?"

            It is our conclusion that a fire protection district may issue general obligation bonds for the purpose of acquiring replacement fire fighting equipment, under the provisions of chapter 24, Laws of 1951, Second Ex. Sess.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            At the outset it is to be noted that we are confronted with two statutes on the subject of the issuance of general obligation bonds payable by tax levies in excess of the forty mill levy, which are generally parallel in the nature of  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] the authority granted.  One of these (RCW 84.52.056, § 1, chapter 176, Laws of 1941, § 4, chapter 23, Laws of 1951, Second Ex. Sess.), is a general statute, and the other (RCW 52.16.080, § 3, chapter 24, Laws of 1951, Second Ex. Sess.) is a specific grant of the same authority but broader in scope.  RCW 84.52.056,supra, the general statute provides:

            "Any municipal corporation otherwise authorized by law to issue general obligation bonds for capital purposes may, at an election duly held after giving notice thereof as required by law, authorize the issuance of general obligation bonds for capital purposes only, which shall not include the replacement of equipment, and provide for the payment of the principal and interest of such bonds by annual levies in excess of the tax limitation contained in RCW 84.52.050 to 84.52.056, inclusive.  Such an election shall not be held oftener than twice a calendar year, and the proposition to issue any such bonds and to exceed said tax limitation must receive the affirmative vote of a three‑fifths majority of those voting on the proposition and the total number of persons voting at such election must constitute not less than forty percent of the voters in said municipal corporation who voted at the last preceding general state election.

            "Any taxing district shall have the right by vote of its governing body to refund any general obligation bonds of said district issued for capital purposes only, and to provide for the interest thereon and amortization thereof by annual levies in excess of the tax limitation provided for in RCW 84.52.050 to 84.52.056, inclusive."  (Emphasis supplied)

            The legislators have here limited the scope of capital purposes, specifically excluding the replacement of equipment as a capital purpose and further, limiting the elections to be held under the authority granted to twice in one calendar year and such proposition must receive an affirmative vote of three‑fifths majority of those voting, and the total of the voters must be at least forty percent of the voters who voted at the last general election.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            RCW 52.16.080,supra, a special grant of authority to fire protection districts, provides:

            "Fire protection districts are hereby authorized to incur general indebtedness forcapital purposes and for the purpose of refunding outstanding coupon warrants issued forcapital purposes only, not to exceed an amount, together with any outstanding general obligation indebtedness, equal to three percent of the assessed valuation of the taxable property within such district and to issue general obligation bonds evidencing such indebtedness on the terms and provisions hereinafter set forth, the principal and interest thereof to be payable from annual tax levies to be made in excess of the forty-mill tax limitation."  (Emphasis supplied)

            In this section there has been no limitation placed on the terms "capital purposes."  In the next succeeding section, 52.16.090, the same requirements are set out for a valid election on the proposal with the exception that the proposition may be submitted to the electors of the district at a general or special election which may be held at any time.

            The question then arises whether the legislature intended RCW 84.52.056,supra, to limit capital purposes for which general obligation bonds may be issued by fire protection districts, by excluding from the definition of capital purposes in RCW 84.52.056 the "replacement of equipment."

            It is of some significance that RCW 84.52.056, supra, was enacted in its original form in the legislative session of 1941 and was reenacted as a part of chapter 23, Laws of 1951, Second Ex. Sess., and that RCW 52.16.080, supra, is a part of chapter 24, Laws of 1951, Second Ex. Sess. and was originally enacted at the 1951 Second Ex. Sess., and further, that both chapters were passed by the House and Senate and approved by the Governor on the same day.  We therefore must necessarily presume that the legislature was cognizant of the inconsistency between these two statutes.

            A California Court in a case involving a problem of the same nature as we are here confronted with, stated the rule to be:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            "* * * that a statute having a special application controls a general one without regard to the dates of their passage and that an act general in its character will not annul the provisions of one covering a special subject, even though it seems to cover the same general ground.  * * *"  Chilson v. Jerome, 283 Pac. 862; People v. Pacific Implement Co., 130 Calif. 442, 62 Pac. 739.

            The Montana court states the rule as follows:

            "'* * * Where the special statute is later, it will be regarded as an exception to or qualification of the prior general one.'"  * * *  Reagan v. Boyd, 59 Mont. 453, 197 Pac. 832; State v. Mills, (Mont.) 261 Pac. 885.

            InState ex rel. Abbott v. Ross, 62 Wash. 89, 113 Pac. 273, the court said:

            "* * * The rule is that a general statute does not repeal a special one, unless such is the plain legislative intent, even when they may contain somewhat inconsistent provisions.  * * *"

            It is a generally recognized rule of statutory construction that where two statutes are in conflict they should be construed where possible, so as to give effect to both.

            It would seem that the legislative intent of RCW 84.52.056, supra, was to limit the scope of the authority granted to those municipal corporations which previously had authority to issue general obligation bonds for capital purposes, but were limited in the payment of the indebtedness by the forty mill tax limit, and not to be applicable to those given specific authority to issue general obligation bonds and to levy taxes in payment therefor in excess of the forty mill tax limit.  This intent is exhibited by the first portion of RCW 84.52.056, supra, which states:

            "Any municipal corporation otherwise authorized by law to issue general obligation bonds for capital purposes may, * * * and provide for the payment of the principal and interest of such bonds by annual levies in excess of the tax limitation * * *."  (Emphasis supplied)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            Webster's New International Dictionary, 2nd Ed., page 1729 defines "otherwise" as meaning:

            "In a different manner; in another way, or in other ways; contrarily * * *."

            It would therefore seem that the legislature did not intend RCW 84.52.050,supra, by their usage of the terms "otherwise authorized"; to apply to municipal corporations which had been given essentially the same authority by a special grant.

            This is further strengthened by the fact that the special grant of authority of RCW 52.16.080,supra, is given to fire protection districts, whose prime purpose is the elimination of fire hazards and for the protection of life and property in areas outside of cities and towns.  It was no doubt the legislative intent that fire districts should not be restricted in the purposes for which they might issue general obligation bonds, due to the tremendous importance and necessity of having at their disposal efficient fire fighting equipment, which they might not otherwise be in a position to obtain if they were so restricted.

            We are therefore of the opinion that a fire protection district may issue general obligation bonds for the purpose of acquiring replacement fire fighting equipment, under the provisions of chapter 24, Laws of 1951, Second Ex. Session.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

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