Navigation Top
AGO Logo Graphic
AGO Header Image
File a Complaint
Contact the AGO
AGO 1952 No. 308 - May 13, 1952
AGO Opinion Header Image
Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington


The ordinance is not within the spirit and intent of RCW 35.21.070 as it expresses more than one purpose, and further, the ending portion of the ordinance which reads "and for any other similar purpose" is not specific.

                                                                  - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                   May 13, 1952

Honorable Cliff Yelle
State Auditor
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 308

Attention:  Mr. A. E. Hankins

Dear Sir:

            On the 13th day of February 1952, this office received a request from you for an opinion on the following:

            Does section 1, chapter 60, Laws of 1941 (RCW 35.21.070) contemplate that a cumulative reserve fund may be established in such broad terms as the following quotation from an ordinance appears to indicate:

            "For the purchase or repair of city equipment, the construction or repair of city buildings, the establishment, widening and extending of streets, the construction of sewers, the acquisition of real property, and the matching of federal or state funds for such purposes, and for any other similar purpose.

            "If the above ordinance falls within the intent of chapter 60, Laws of 1941, should not the city or town be required to budget for specific purposes prior to the expending of said funds?"

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            Our conclusions may be summarized as follows:

            The ordinance in question is not within the spirit and intent of RCW 35.21.070, as it expresses more than one "purpose", i.e., "purpose", used in the sense of a single object, plan, aim, proposition or project, as distinguished from the plural, "purposes", which contemplates more than one object, plan, aim, etc.  And, further, in the ordinance the "purpose" must be "specified", i.e., definite, in particular, precisely stated, and the opposite of "general."  The section of the ordinance which reads "and for any other similar purpose," is not specific.


            RCW 35.21.070 authorizes any city or town, to establish a reserve fund which may be cumulative beyond the fiscal year.  It reads as follows:

            "Any city or town is hereby authorized to establish by ordinance a cumulative reserve fund for any municipal purpose, including that of buying any specified supplies, material or equipment, or the construction, alteration or repair of any public building or work, or the making of any public improvement.  The ordinance shall designate the fund as 'cumulative reserve fund for........ (naming purpose for which fund is to be accumulated and expended).'  The moneys in said fund may be allowed to accumulate from year to year until the legislative authority of the city or town shall determine to expend the moneys in the fund for the purpose specified:  Provided, That any moneys in said fund shall never be expended for any other purpose than that specified, without an approving vote by a majority of the electors of the city or town at a general or special election voting on a proposal submitted to the electors to allow other specified uses to be made of said fund."

            The Supreme Court of our state has not rendered a decision which in any way involves the statute in question, nor have we been able to find a similar statute from a search made of the laws of other states.  Therefore, we must resort to statutory construction, in arriving at our conclusion.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            In the interpretation of statutes, the legislative will is the all important or controlling factor.  In re Butler, 129 Wash. 638, 225 Pac. 629.

            We shall omit any reference to the title by reason of the fact that our Supreme Court holds that in finding the legislative intent, the title is to be resorted to only when there is an ambiguity in the body of the act; and further that the only purpose it serves is to call attention to the subject matter in the act, and the act must be looked to for a full description of the powers conferred.  CitingLancey v. King County, 15 Wash. 11, 45 Pac. 645, 34 L.R.A. 817;City of Spokane v. State, 198 Wash. 682, 89 P. (2d) 826;State ex rel. Swan v. Taylor, 21 Wash. 672, 59 Pac. 489;Thayer v. Snohomish Logging Company, 101 Wash. 458, 172 Pac. 552;State v. Crothers, 118 Wash. 226, 203 Pac. 74.

            It is noted that in the body of the act, the word "purpose", in the singular, has been used on five different occasions.  The word "purpose" means, that which a person sets before himself as an object to be reached; the end, or aim to which the view is directed, in any plan, matter or execution.  Ex parte McCoy, 10 Cal. App. 116, 101 Pac. 419, 425; State v. Baldino, 78 A. (2d) 95, 97, 11 N.J. Super. 158;State ex rel. Nelson v. Board of Comm. of Yellowstone County, 100 P. (2d) 1106, 1107, 111 Mont. 395; Pawnee County Excise Bd. v. Kurn, 101 P. (2d) 614, 618, 187 Okl. 110;Boyd v. Garrison, 19 So. (2d) 385, 389, 246 Ala. 122.  35 Words and Phrases (Perm. Ed. Pocket Part) 139.

            "Purpose" is further limited in the statute by the word "specified" which is repeatedly used with "purpose", or used in such a manner as to relate to the word "purpose."

            "Specific" means definite, or making definite; limited or precise; precisely formulated or restricted; tending to specify or make particular; the word is limited to a particular, definite or precise thing, and hence is the very opposite of "general".  State ex rel. State Railway Commission v. Ramsey, 37 N.W. (2d) 502, 509, 151 Neb. 333;People v. Thomas, 156 P. (2d) 7, 17, 25 Cal. (2d) 880; 39 Words and Phrases (Perm. Ed. Pocket Part) 185.

            It follows from the foregoing analysis, that the ordinance in question is defective by reason of stating more than one purpose and tending to be general.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

Content Bottom Graphic
AGO Logo