DISTRICTS ‑- SCHOOLS ‑- COUNTIES ‑- LOCAL IMPROVEMENT ‑- PETITIONS
A school district, acting through its board of directors, may sign a petition for the formation of a utility local improvement district under RCW 36.94.230, or sign a protest petition against the formation of such a district under RCW 36.94.240.
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July 16, 1973
Honorable Ronald L. Hendry
946 County-City Building
Tacoma, Washington 98402
Cite as: AGLO 1973 No. 75
By letter previously acknowledged you have requested an opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:
May a school district, through its board of directors, sign a petition for the formation of a utility local improvement district under RCW 36.94.230, or sign a protest petition against the formation of such a district under RCW 36.94.240?
We answer both aspects of this question in the affirmative.
Chapter 36.94 RCW grants to all counties the authority to develop comprehensive sewer and water systems, and specifies the procedural steps to be taken with respect to such developments. Pertinent to your inquiry are RCW 36.94.230 and 36.94.240, the first of which provides, in material part, as follows:
"Utility local improvement districts to carry out all or any portion of the general plan, or additions and betterments thereof, may be initiated either by resolution of the board of county commissioners or by petition signed by the owners according to the records of the office of the county auditor of at least fifty-one percent of the area of land within the limits of the utility local improvement district to be created." (Emphasis supplied.)
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
RCW 36.94.240 then provides, in pertinent part:
". . . That the jurisdiction of the commissioners to proceed with any improvement initiated by resolution shall be divested by protests filed with the clerk of the board prior to said public hearing signed by the owners, according to the records of the county auditor, of at least forty percent of the area of land within the proposed local district. . . ." (Emphasis supplied.)
The question raised by your request is whether a school district constitutes an "owner" of property within the meaning of these two statutes. Essentially this same question was raised in another context some years ago ‑ leading to our issuance of AGO 61-62 No. 169 [[to Charles O. Carroll, Prosecuting Attorney, King County on September 26, 1962]], copy enclosed. There, we were concerned with whether a school district could contract as a landowner with a sewer district under a statute (RCW 35.91.020) which authorized any city, town, sewer district, water district, or drainage district to contract with ". . . owners of real estate . . ." for the construction of storm, sanitary or combination sewers, pumping stations and disposal plants, and other water or sewer facilities. In answering this question in the affirmative we said:
"Thus, in order to contract with a 'municipality,' as defined in the act, the school district must be an 'owner.' That a school district is an owner in the normal sense of the word can hardly be disputed. The power to own realty is expressly granted in many places throughout Title 28 RCW. By way of example, RCW 28.58.010 provides in part:
"'A school district shall constitute a body corporate and shall possess all the usual powers of a corporation for public purposes, and in that name and style may sue and be sued, purchase, hold, and sell personal property and real estate, . . . The board of directors of the school district shall have exclusive control of all school buildings and other property, real or personal, owned by the district.' (Emphasis supplied.)"
[[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
We believe that the reasoning of this 1962 opinion is sound, and equally applicable to the status of a school district as a landowner under RCW 36.94.230 and 36.94.240, supra. Accordingly, it is our opinion that a school district, acting through its board of directors, may both join in a petition for the formation of a utility local improvement district under the first of these two statutes and sign a protest against the formation of such a district under the second.
It is hoped that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours
William A. Coats
Assistant Attorney General