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August 18, 1972
Honorable Robert V. Graham
Olympia, Washington 98504
Cite as: AGLO 1972 No. 64 (not official)
Re !ttIntermediate school districts ‑
applicability of RCW 28A.58.135,
school district bid law, to such
By recent letter you have requested an opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:
Does RCW 28A.58.135, the competitive bidding requirement which is found in the RCW chapter containing provisions applicable to all school districts, apply to intermediate school districts?
We answer your question in the negative.
As you have indicated, the reason for your question is the absence of any provision in the intermediate school district act itself, now codified as chapter 28A.21 RCW, requiring such districts to make purchases or let contracts pursuant to competitive bidding. Your question further indicates an awareness that, notwithstanding the sound public policy embodied in such requirements, a public agency need not advertise for competitive bids in making public purchases or letting public contracts unless expressly required by law to do so. See, AGO 61-62 No. 103 [[to Elmer W. Stanley, Executive Secretary Washington State School Directors Association on March 21, 1962]], a copy of which is enclosed, and authorities cited therein.
The school district bid law, RCW 28A.58.135, provides in pertinent part as follows:
"When, in the opinion of the board of directors of any school district, the cost of any furniture, supplies, equipment, building, improvements or repairs, or other work or purchases, except books, will equal or exceed the sum of twenty-five hundred dollars, complete plans and specifications [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] for such work or purchases shall be prepared and notice by publication given in at least one newspaper of general circulation within the district, once each week for two consecutive weeks, of the intention to receive bids therefor and that specifications and other information may be examined at the office of the board: . . . The contract for the work or purchase shall be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder as defined in RCW 43.19.1911. . . ."
Notably, that statute makes no express reference to intermediate school districts. Furthermore, our reading of both the bid law and the intermediate school district act leads us to conclude that any implied intention on the part of the legislature to include such districts in the bid law must be regarded as unclear, at best.
To the extent that these statutes may contain any ambiguity the problem requires a resort to principles of statutory construction, our sole object being to ascertain and give effect to the actual intent of the legislature. Cory v. Nethery, 19 Wn.2d 326, 142 P.2d 488 (1943).
As a preliminary note, it would be impossible to say that intermediate school districts were governed by the provisions of RCW 28A.58.135, supra, when that law was first adopted, for no intermediate districts existed at that time. The bid statute was enacted in substantially its present form by chapter 224, Laws of 1961. The intermediate school district law was first enacted as chapter 176, Laws of 1969, 1st Ex. Sess. (Both laws were reenacted and recodified together in chapter 223, Laws of 1969, 1st Ex. Sess.)
The real question, therefore, in terms of statutory construction, is whether the 1969 legislature in enacting or reenacting the law creating intermediate school districts considered these districts to be "school districts" within the meaning of the existing bid law, RCW 28A.58.135, supra. In answering this question negatively we have not overlooked the rule that in doubtful cases public policy requires a construction favoring the competitive bidding requirement. See, AGO 61-62 No. 103, supra. However, we can find no evidence of any such legislative intent; rather, there are many indications pointing to a contrary intention.
Our first resort, as usual, is to the context and subject matter of the legislation itself;1/ beginning in this [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] case with RCW 28A.58.135, supra. There we find legislative direction being given expressly to ". . . the board of directors of any school district . . ." The governing body of an intermediate school district is not a "board of directors" but simply ". . . an intermediate school district board . . .". See, RCW 28A.21.030.
Other similar distinctions are found in the legally established nature and operations of these two types of entities. In an opinion to the prosecuting attorney of King county, October 31, 1969, we had occasion to consider whether or not an intermediate school district was included in the scope of a certain act appropriating funds to "participating school districts." We answered that question in the negative, concluding that "intermediate school districts" were not "school districts" within the meaning of that act. A copy of that opinion, illustrating certain substantial differences between these classes of entities is enclosed for further reference.
Intermediate school district law contains many such distinctive features, but it would lengthen this opinion unduly to detail all of them. If more is needed, a significant manifestation of intent is found in RCW 28A.21.135, which provides as follows:
"The superintendent of public instruction by rule and regulation shall adopt budgeting procedures for intermediate school districts modeled after the statutory procedures for school districts as provided in chapter 28A.65 RCW."
In addition to revealing a legislative awareness of the distinction between these two types of entities, this last-quoted statute clearly shows that when the legislature meant to incorporate provisions of school district law into the intermediate school district act, it did so by express reference. Notably, the school district bid law was not similarly incorporated.
In summary, therefore, we must conclude that RCW 28A.58.135, supra, is not applicable to intermediate school districts. Accordingly, because there is no other express statutory provision on the subject, an intermediate school district may, but need not, advertise for competitive bids in making purchases or in letting contracts.
[[Orig. Op. Page 4]]
We hope the foregoing information will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Robert F. Hauth
Assistant Attorney General
*** FOOTNOTES ***
1/See, Graffell v. Honeysuckle, 30 Wn.2d 390, 191 P.2d 858 (1948).