SCHOOLS ‑- COUNTY COMMITTEE ON SCHOOL DISTRICT ORGANIZATION ‑- STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION ‑- NONHIGH PARTICIPATIVE FINANCE PLAN ‑- AMOUNT TO BE RAISED BY NONHIGH DISTRICT IN EXCESS OF BONDING CAPACITY ‑- EXCESS LEVIES.
Under chapter 28.56 RCW a county committee on school district organization may propose and the state board may approve a nonhigh participative plan which is equitable notwithstanding the amount of money to be raised by a nonhigh district as its share in the building program may be greater than the amount of money which could be raised by the district solely by the issuance of bonds. Where the bonding capacity is reached, any additional amount required must be raised by an excess levy. RCW 28.56.050.
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June 5, 1963
Honorable Hewitt A. Henry
Thurston County Court House
Cite as: AGO 63-64 No. 30
By letter previously acknowledged you have requested an opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:
Under chapter 28.56 RCW may a county committee on school district organization propose and the state board of education approve a nonhigh participative finance plan, whereby the amount of money to be raised by the nonhigh district as its share in the building program is greater than the amount of money which the district could raise solely by the issuance of bonds within the limit of bonded indebtedness as prescribed by law?
We answer your question in the affirmative for the reasons set forth in the analysis.
A student residing in a nonhigh school district may legally attend high school in any high school district. Chapter 28.56 RCW provides the method by which the nonhigh school districts in which said students reside share the burden of providing capital funds for the construction of high school facilities wherein such students are [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] enrolled. RCW 28.56.020 provides in part as follows:
"The said county committee shall give consideration to:
". . .
"(3) The assessed valuation of the school districts involved in each case and the ability of each district to issue bonds within the limit of indebtedness prescribed by law;
". . .
"(5) Any other factors found by the committee to have a bearing on the preparation of an equitable plan."
RCW 28.56.050 provides as follows:
"Within sixty days after receipt of the notice of approval from the county superintendent, the board of directors of each school district included in the plan shall submit to the voters thereof a proposal or proposals for providing, through theissuance of bonds and/or the authorization of an excess tax levy, the amount of capital funds that the district is required to provide under the plan. The proceeds of any such bond issue and/or excess tax levy shall be credited to the building fund of the school district in which the proposed high school facilities are to be located and shall be expended to pay the cost of high school facilities for the education of such students residing in the school districts as are included in the plan and not otherwise." (Emphasis supplied.)
RCW 28.56.020 sets forth the factors which the county committee must take into account in considering the merits of a plan of participation by nonhigh districts. It is to be recognized of course that any plan which the county committee approves must be a just and equitable plan.
[[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
RCW 28.56.020 (3) provides that the school district's ability to issue bonds within the limit of indebtedness prescribed by law, is a factor to be considered. It is evident upon a reading of this entire section that the limit of bonded indebtedness is not the sole factor to be considered. Subsection (5) authorizes the committee to consider any other factors bearing on an equitable plan.
InState of Washington ex rel. Cosmopolis School Dist. No. 99 v. Bruno, 161 Wash. Dec. 459 [[61 Wn.2d 461]], 467 (1963), our court in discussing RCW 28.56.020 said as follows:
"The legislature has delegated to the county committee the duty to submit an equitable plan, based upon the factors in RCW 28.56.020. The legislature clothed the county committee with discretionary functions, when it provided that the committee 'shall give consideration to . . . Any other factors found by the committee to have a bearing on the preparation of an equitable plan.'
". . .The duty to prepare and submit an equitable plan, by applying the factors detailed in RCW 28.56.020, lies solely within the sound discretion of the county committee." (Emphasis supplied.)
See, also, 59 AGO 104 [[AGO 59-60 No. 104 to Prosecuting Attorney, Pierce County on February 29, 1960]]. It is clear then that other factors may be considered.
RCW 28.56.050 provides for other means of raising capital funds by a nonhigh district, and such means may be considered by the county committee on school district organization.
It is a rule of statutory construction that in defining statutory language, the legislative intent must be gleaned from a consideration of the whole act and reading the statute in its entirety. DeGrief v. Seattle, 50 Wn.2d 1, 297 P.2d 940 (1956).
RCW 28.56.050,supra, clearly provides that a proposal providing for funds under which a nonhigh school district is to participate in a plan is to be submitted to the voters of the district. It is further provided that funds may be obtained "through the issuance of bonds and/or the authorization of an excess tax levy."1/ The use of the [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] expression "and/or" indicates that both excess tax levies and/or bonded indebtedness is contemplated as means for raising the necessary capital funds. A statute should, if possible, be so construed that no clause, sentence or word is held to be superfluous, void or insignificant. Public Hosp, Dist. No. 2 of Okanogan County v. Taxpayers of Okanogan County, 44 Wn.2d 623, 269 P.2d 594 (1954).
InBatchelor v. Madison Park Corp., 25 Wn.2d 907, 924, 172 P.2d 268 (1946), our court in discussing the use of the expression "and/or," as it was used in a statute, said as follows:
"It is contended that the use of the expression 'and/or' . . . renders the act itself . . . wholly void for uncertainty. The use of that method of expression has been criticized in many legal opinions. However, Webster's New International Dictionary (2d ed.), published in 1945, defines the terms as follows: 'and/or. Eitherand or or. "Butterand/or eggs" means "butter and eggs, or butter or eggs."'"
It is clear then that RCW 28.56.050, supra, is intended to provide either a bond issue or excess tax levy, or both, as the means for raising capital funds for nonhigh school district participation in high school district plans.
Amendment 27 of the Washington State Constitution limits the bonded indebtedness of a school district to ten percent of the actual value of the taxable property in the district. Chapter 39.36 RCW further limits the bonding capacity of a school district to ten percent of theassessed valuation of the taxable property in the district.
It follows, of course, that in the event a nonhigh district has reached its maximum legal limit of bonded indebtedness, the only remaining source of capital funds could be by an excess tax levy. Thus, chapter 28.56 RCW is not inconsistent with the provisions of chapter 39.36 RCW or Amendment 27 of the Washington State Constitution.
We conclude therefore that a plan for participation of nonhigh [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] districts in high school building projects of a high school district may be proposed and approved notwithstanding the fact that the amount to be raised by the nonhigh district is greater than its ability to issue bonds within the limit of indebtedness prescribed by law.
We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Assistant Attorney General
*** FOOTNOTES ***
1/Of course, a bond and/or excess levy election is subject to the requirements of the 17th Amendment. See, also, RCW 84.52.052, RCW 84.52.056.