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AGO 1950 No. 406 - December 27, 1950
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington


A special election of a school district providing moneys for general maintenance does not authorize use of current expense moneys of the school district to replace lights on its athletic field.

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                                                               December 27, 1950

Honorable Cliff Yelle
State Auditor
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 406

Attention:  !ttLawrence Hubble
            Chief Examiner

Dear Sir:

            We acknowledge receipt of your request of November 27, 1950, for an opinion of this office on the following question:

            "May a portion of the proceeds of a special levy authorized by the electors of a school district 'for general maintenance,' be used to replace some of the lights on the athletic field?"

            Our conclusion is that a special election of a school district providing moneys for general maintenance does not authorize use of current expense moneys of the school district to replace lights on its athletic field.


            It has long been accepted that a school district has the power to acquire, hold and improve the grounds of the schools in said district, athletic fields, equipment, and swimming tanks when it is considered by the directors essential to the proper physical development of the pupils of said district which would give the directors the authority to provide fencing or light athletic field for the protection of the school grounds and buildings.  This [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] office has held, however, in an opinion to the state auditor on September 6, 1939, which arose from facts in which it clearly appeared that such improvement was solely to promote night football games and to insure full admission collections, that

            "There is, in the opinion of the Attorney General, no law authorizing a school board of the state of Washington to execute any such contracts or notes or obligations as indicated in this question.  A school district undoubtedly would be authorized to vote funds for providing such equipment and for such improvements for its football field.  However, the district is not authorized to provide flood lights for the purpose of competitive football games or any other games and pay for the same out of the common school funds.  * * *"

            While competitive football matches are neither designed for nor, in fact, do result in physical or educational improvement of the school student body as a whole, civic pride may desire elaborate improvements of the athletic field.  We, accordingly, reaffirm our opinion that school moneys may not be expended to promote such competitive sports for the enrichment of the student body funds without the specific authority of the electorate of the district to do so.

            Where the directors determine that such expense as replacement of lights on the athletic field is essential to facilitate the holding of school activities of a nature tending to improve or augment the development of the pupils of the district generally, such expenditure would undoubtedly be proper as a promotion of education and it is within their province to determine what is proper and necessary for this purpose.  The ballot used in the election which you mention, however, did not authorize generally or specifically the expenditures of funds to replace some of the field flood lights, and therefore, does not provide special authority to the directors to make such particular expenditure and they, therefore, are relegated to their general powers in connection with this problem.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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