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April 15, 1971
Honorable Thomas A. Swayze, Jr.
Speaker of the House of Representatives
Olympia, Washington 98501 Cite as: AGLO 1971 No. 62 (not official)
We acknowledge receipt of your letter dated April 12, 1971, requesting our opinion as to whether dormatories or housing for students or faculty at a private institution of higher education are presently exempt from property taxation under the provisions of RCW 84.36.050.
In response at this time, we are transmitting herewith a copy of our opinion to Senator Martin J. Durkan, dated March 31, 1970, in which exactly this same question was answered in the negative. As you will note, the basis for this ruling was the legislative history of Senate Bill No. 144 during the 1970 legislative session. After describing the history of this bill, we concluded as follows:
"In view of this legislative history of the bill, we can see no other alternative than to conclude that a knowing and reasoned decision was made by the legislature not to add 'housing for students, staff members and other employees' to the preexisting tax exemptions in question."
Within the purview of this analysis of RCW 84.36.050 (as amended), of course, one does not reach the question of construction of the exclusion from the exemption which is provided for by the second paragraph of the statute to which you have referred, for the conclusion which is reached on the basis of the legislative history of the 1970 amendment is that property of the type in question does not come within the scope of the exemption itself, in the first place.
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
Lastly, we have read the court's opinion in Lakeside Country Day School v. King County, 179 Wash. 588, 38 P.2d 264 (1934), which you have cited; however, although it is true that this case involved a construction of a predecessor to RCW 84.36.050 which bears some similarities to the present wording of the statute, its sole applicability by way of analogy would appear to be limited to the matter of construing the exclusion from the exemption, and not the scope of the exemption itself. In other words, this decision simply does not come to grips with the critical issue raised by your present inquiry ‑ as to whether dormatories or housing for students or faculty at a private institution of higher education may be said to be ". . . property . . . used solely for educational purposes, . . ." within the meaning of the first paragraph of RCW 84.36.050 under which the tax exemption for such property is granted. And as above indicated, in view of the legislative history of Senate Bill No. 144 during the 1970 session, we deem the conclusion inescapable that the legislature, by its deletion of the phrase "including housing for students, staff members and other employees" from the bill, intended not to add such property to the preexisting tax exemption in question.
We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Philip H. Austin
Deputy Attorney General