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AGO 1951 No. 482 - March 29, 1951
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

PUBLIC ASSISTANCE ACCOUNT ‑- TWO MILL LEVY.

1. The Department of Social Security has authority to determine at what time during the year the two mill levy shall be credited to the public assistance account in the county treasury.

2. The Department of Social Security is authorized to determine whether or not the entire two mill levy for each county must be deposited in the public assistance account on or before the 31st of December of each year.

3. The Department of Social Security and not the Social Security Committee has authority to determine how the proceeds of the county two mill levy shall be credited and used.

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

                                                                  March 29, 1951

Honorable Cliff Yelle
Division of Departmental Audits
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                             Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 482

Attention:  C. W. Yoakum, Chief Examiner

Dear Sir:

            You have requested the opinion of this office on the following questions:

            1. At what time during the year should the credit of the two mill levy to the public assistance account be made by the counties?

            2. Shall the entire annual two mill levy for each county, on its assessed valuation of taxable property, be deposited in the current expense fund in an assistance account on or before December 31, of each year?

            3. Does the law grant the Social Security Committee authority to enforce the compliance by counties with the provision relating to the annual allocation of the two mill levy, and to designate to the counties what constitutes an annual period?

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            Our conclusions may be summarized as follows:

            1. The Department of Social Security has authority to determine at what time during the year the two mill levy shall be credited to the public assistance account in the county treasury.

            2. The Department of Social Security is authorized to determine whether or not the entire two mill levy for each county must be deposited in the public assistance account on or before the 31st of December of each year.

            3. The Department of Social Security and not the Social Security Committee has authority to determine how the proceeds of the county two mill levy shall be credited and used.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Inasmuch as your first two questions involve the same problem, we will discuss them together.

            Section 10, chapter 216, Laws of 1939, as amended by chapter 172, Laws of 1943 (§ 10007-110a Rem. Supp. 1943) provides as follows:

            "Each county in the state shall levy annually a tax upon the assessed valuation of its taxable property at a rate of not less than two (2) mills for public assistance purposes.  A sum equal to the amount so assessed, together with revenues accruing to the county from the administration of the public assistance program shall be deposited in the county current expense fund in an assistance account and shall be disbursed by warrant of the County Auditor upon a prescribed form authenticated by the County Administrator and approved by the Board of County Commissioners.  Disbursements of moneys in such account shall be made primarily for general assistance purposes and shall conform to the uniform standards established as specified in this act.  * * *"

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Apparently, the method of crediting the two mill levy in the assistance account in the current expense fund varies from county to county.  Some of the counties credit the entire amount in January, and some the entire amount at the first quarter; other counties credit monies into the fund as taxes are collected by the county treasurer crediting the public assistance account its pro rata share of the collections; still others fail to credit the entire amount within the calendar year because some of the taxes are still uncollected.

            Section 11, chapter 216, Laws of 1937, as amended by chapter 172, Laws of 1943, (§ 10007-111a Rem. Supp.) provides that in the event proceeds of the county two mill levy are inadequate to provide general assistance for the county, the county administrator is authorized to submit to the director a request for special grant-in-aid of state funds.  At the present time most of the monies used by the county in providing such general assistance are state funds rather than county funds.

            Section 7, chapter 216, Laws of 1939, as amended by chapter 172, Laws of 1943 (§ 10007-107a Rem. Supp. 1943) provides that in order to make the department's supervision over county administration of public assistance effective the county commissioners shall agree, among other things to:

            "(6) * * * make available for assistance purposes asum equal to a two (2) mill tax levy upon the assessed valuation of its taxable property, together with such miscellaneous revenues as may accrue to the county through the operation of public assistance programs, and to apply such moneys in accordance with uniform standards prescribed by the department and submit quarterly reports of all expenditures for such assistance purposes within the county."  (Emphasis supplied)

            In addition, section 11 provides further as follows:

            "In order to secure reimbursement under this section it shall be incumbent on the counties to maintain such records pertaining to expenditures and to conform to such other requirements in respect thereto as may be prescribed by the Department of Social Security."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            It is the opinion of this office that that provision clearly authorizes the Department of Social Security to determine how the two mill levy shall be applied by the county and the procedure to be used by them in crediting it to the public assistance account and disbursing it under the statute.

            Section 6, chapter 216, Laws of 1939, (§ 10007-106a Rem. Supp.) provides that:

            "In the event of non-compliance [[noncompliance]]with any such rules and regulations, the department shall have the power and it shall be its duty to take over the administration of public assistance programs in any county involved until compliance shall have been effected, during which time the department shall have power to authorize and approve the expenditure of all public assistance funds within the county."

            If any county fails to comply with the rules and regulations or procedures established by the state department with regard to the method to be used by the counties in crediting the two mill levy to the public assistance account, the state department can refuse to give the county any state funds and can take over the actual administration of the program in the county, which the department has done in the past.

            Accordingly, you are advised that it is the opinion of this office that the State Department of Social Security has authority to prescribe rules and regulations governing the allocation and crediting of the county two mill levy and to determine whether or not the entire sum represented by the annual levy must be shown, at least as a bookkeeping entry, on the county books in the public assistance account at the beginning or end of each fiscal tax year.

            In answer to your third question, section 21, chapter 216, Laws of 1939, (§ 10007-121a Rem. Supp.) provides as follows:

            "It shall be the duty of the State Auditor to audit the accounts, books and records of the Department of Social Security.  The Social Security Committee shall immediately upon the taking effect of this act proceed to establish and install a uniform  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] accounting system for all categories of public assistance, applicable to all officers, boards, commissioners, department or other agencies having to do with the allowance and disbursement of public funds for assistance purposes, which said uniform accounting system shall conform to the accounting methods required by the Federal government in respect to the administration of Federal funds for assistance purposes."

            That provision merely authorizes the Social Security Committee to establish a uniform accounting system for all categories of public assistance upon the taking effect of chapter 216, Laws of 1939.  Insofar as we have been able to determine, the Social Security Committee did not act as authorized by that section of the law.  However, under the statute cited above, the Department of Social Security is required to establish uniform standards throughout the state for the administration of public assistance and to require the expenditures of the two mill levy in accordance with such standards.  In addition, in order to secure reimbursement, each county must conform to the requirements of the Department of Social Security.

            Accordingly, you are advised that it is our opinion that it is the legal responsibility of the State Department of Social Security rather than the Social Security Committee to enforce compliance by the counties with the statutory provisions relating to the two mill levy.  The Department of Social Security should promulgate rules and regulations designating what constitutes an annual period and prescribing when the sum representing the two mill levy shall be deposited in the public assistance account in the county treasury.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

JANE DOWDLE
Assistant Attorney General

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