FIREMEN ‑- PENSION FUND ‑- TAXATION ‑- CITIES AND TOWNS
A city or town which does not have a regularly organized full time, paid, fire department is not authorized to levy the one‑half mill property tax provided for by RCW 41.16.060.
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September 11, 1973
Honorable Robert V. Graham
Olympia, Washington 98504
Cite as: AGLO 1973 No. 93
This is written in response to your recent letter requesting our opinion on the following question:
". . . May a city or town pursuant to the provisions of RCW 41.16.060 (Supp.) which does not have a regualarly organized full time, paid, fire department employing firemen, and therefore having no need for creating and establishing a firemen's pension fund, levy and use for any other municipal purpose one‑half of one mill, in addition to the city and/or town levy limit as established by RCW 84.52.050 (Supp.)?"
We answer this question in the negative.
RCW 41.16.060 is a part of the laws governing what is commonly referred to as the "paid firemen's" pension system (since largely superseded by the Washington state law enforcement officers' and fire fighters' pension system covered by chapter 41.26 RCW), which originated with the enactment of chapter 91, Laws of 1947. This statute deals, in particular, with the funding of that prior pension system and reads as follows:
"It shall be the duty of the legislative authority of each municipality, each year as a part of its annual tax levy, to levy and place in the fund a tax of one‑half of one mill on all the taxable property of such municipality: Provided, That if a report by a qualified actuary on the condition of the fund establishes that the whole or any part of said millage is not necessary to maintain the actuarial soundness of the fund, the levy of said one‑half [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] of one mill may be omitted, or the whole or any part of said millage may be levied and used for any other municipal purpose.
"It shall be the duty of the legislative authority of each municipality, each year as a part of its annual tax levy and in addition to the city levy limit set forth in RCW 84.52.050, as now or hereafter amended, to levy and place in the fund an additional tax of one‑half of one mill on all taxable property of such municipality: Provided, That if a report by a qualified actuary establishes that all or any part of the additional one‑half of one mill levy is unnecessary to meet the estimated demands on the fund under this chapter for the ensuing budget year, the levy of said additional one‑half of one mill may be omitted, or the whole or any part of such millage may be levied and used for any other municipal purpose." (Emphasis supplied.)
The critical word in this statute, in terms of your question, is the word "municipality." It is of course true that this term, generally speaking, applies to and includes all incorporated cities and towns in this state. For the purposes of this pension statute, however, it has a somewhat narrower meaning. Specifically, the term "municipality" is defined by RCW 41.16.010 (9), for the purposes of this pension law, as meaning:
". . . every city and town having a regularly organized full time, paid, fire department employing firemen."
Thus, a city or town which does not have such a fire department is not a "municipality" for the purposes of RCW 41.16.060, supra, and, hence, derives no taxing authority from this statute. Your question, as above set forth, must therefore be answered in the negative.
We trust that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General