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July 6, 1972
Honorable Brian M. Baker
Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney
Post Office Box 918
Chehalis, Washington 98532
Cite as: AGLO 1972 No. 53 (not official)
Dear Mr. Baker:
By letter previously acknowledged, you have requested an opinion of this office upon two questions which we paraphrase as follows:
(1) May a single county unilaterally withdraw from an intercounty rural library district such as the Timberland Regional Library District?
(2) Must a petition for dissolution of an intercounty rural library district be submitted by ten percent of the qualified voters of each and every county included within the library district?
We answer both of these questions in the negative for the reasons set forth below.
Chapter 27.12 RCW is a comprehensive chapter relating to the creation, powers, and methods of dissolution of public libraries in the state of Washington. RCW 27.12.010 provides certain defined terms for use in chapter 27.12 RCW as follows:
"As used in this act, unless the context requires a different meaning:
"(1) 'Governmental unit' means any county, city, town, rural county library district or intercounty rural library district;
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
"(2) 'Legislative body' means the body authorized to determine the amount of taxes to be levied in a governmental unit; in rural county library districts and in intercounty rural library districts the legislative body shall be the board of library trustees of the district;
"(3) 'Library' means a free public library supported in whole or in part with money derived from taxation; and
"(4) 'Regional library' means a free public library maintained by two or more counties or other governmental units; and
"(5) 'Rural county library district' means a library serving all the area of a county not included within the area of incorporated cities and towns; and
"(6) 'Intercounty rural library district' means a municipal corporation organized to provide library service for all areas outside of incorporated cities and towns within two or more counties."
We understand the "Timberland Regional Library" to be an "intercounty rural library district" as its purpose is "to provide library service for all areas outside of incorporated cities and towns within two or more counties." The formation of such districts is provided for in RCW 27.12.100 and involves joint action by the board of county commissioners of each participating county. However nowhere within this or any other applicable statute is any authority granted for the unilateral withdrawal of a single county from a district once formed.
Instead, the only means presently available for withdrawal of a county from an intercounty rural library district is that of dissolution of the entire district. In this regard, RCW 27.12.320 provides, in relevant part, as follows:
"After a rural county library district or an intercounty rural library district [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] has been in operation for three or more years, it may be dissolved pursuant to a majority vote of all of the qualified electors residing outside of incorporated cities and towns voting upon a proposition for its dissolution, at a general election, which proposition may be placed upon the ballot at any such election whenever a petition by ten percent or more qualified voters residing outside of incorporated cities or towns within a rural county library district or an intercounty rural library district requesting such dissolution shall be filed with the board of trustees of such district not less than ninety days prior to the holding of any such election. . . ."
You will note that there is no mention of the possibility of any single county withdrawing from the library district. The statute only contemplates the dissolution of the district as a whole.
For this reason, it is our conclusion that a single company [[county]]may not unilaterally withdraw from an intercounty rural library district.
RCW 27.12.320 provides that a proposition for dissolution of an intercounty rural library district may be placed upon the ballot "whenever a petition by ten percent or more [of the] qualified voters residing outside of incorporated cities or towns within a rural county library district or an intercounty rural library district requesting such dissolution shall be filed with the board of trustees of such district not less than ninety days prior to the holding of any such election."
The statutory framework of this provision obviously anticipates that the votes required be ten percent of the whole intercounty rural library district and not ten percent of each county within the whole. Throughout the statute, the library district is regarded as a single municipal corporation, and the ten percent figure must be regarded as applying to the whole district.
As the county auditor is the chief voter registration officer for each county (see RCW 29.04.020), we further feel this statute contemplates that the county auditor in each county is to certify that the signers of the petitions are qualified electors in their respective counties [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] at the time the petition is filed.
We trust this information has been of assistance.
Very truly yours,
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
WAYNE L. WILLIAMS
Assistant Attorney General