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AGO 1964 No. 129 - December 09, 1964
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


COURTS ‑- JUSTICE COURTS ‑- ORGANIZED UNDER 1961 JUSTICE COURT ACT ‑- COUNTY LAW LIBRARY FEE ‑- USE OF COUNTY CURRENT EXPENSE FUND FOR LAW LIBRARY.

(1) The $1.50 law library fee authorized by RCW 27.24.070 is not applicable to justice courts organized under chapter 299, Laws of 1961.  AGO 63-64 No. 3.

(2) The board of county commissioners may not lawfully appropriate funds from the county current expense fund for the purchase of law books and the payment of other expenses for the law library, but the board may provide in its budget for the levying and collection of a portion of the county's general revenue directly into the library fund.

                                                              - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                December 9, 1964

Honorable George A. Kain
Prosecuting Attorney
Spokane County
Spokane, Washington

                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 63-64 No. 129

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you have requested an opinion of this office on two questions which we paraphrase as follows:

            (1) Is the $1.50 library fee authorized by RCW 27.24.070 applicable to justice courts organized under chapter 299, Laws of 1961?

            (2) In the event of a negative answer to question (1), may the board of county commissioners lawfully appropriate funds from the county current expense fund to the law library, both for the purchase of law books and the payment of other expenses of the law library?

            We answer your first question in the negative, and your second question in the manner as set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Question (1):

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            The first portion of your request is, in essence, a request for review and reconsideration of AGO 63-64 No. 3, dated January 11, 1963, to the King County Prosecuting Attorney Charles O. Carroll.  In that opinion we concluded (in so far as is here material) that the $1.50 law library fee authorized by RCW 27.24.070 is not applicable to justice courts organized under chapter 299, Laws of 1961.

            We have reviewed our earlier opinion and believe that the conclusions stated therein are correct.  Accordingly, we adhere thereto and, on the basis thereof, answer your first question, above paraphrased, in the negative.

            Question (2):

            Repeated for ease of reference, your second question is as follows:

            In the event of a negative answer to question (1), may the board of county commissioners lawfully appropriate funds from the county current expense fund to the law library, both for the purchase of law books and the payment of other expenses of the law library?

            RCW 36.33.010 establishes the county current expense fund as follows:

            "Every county shall maintain a current expense fund to which shall be credited all taxes levied for that purpose and all fees collected, fines assessed, and forfeitures adjudged in the county the proceeds of which have not been specifically allocated to any other purpose."

            It is this fund from which the ordinary expenses of county government, including the salaries of county officers, are payable unless other legislative provision is made.  AGO 6364 No. 76 (copy enclosed) and authorities cited therein.

            However, in the case of expenses of a county law library, it seems clear thatother legislative provision has been made.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            RCW 27.24.070 provides:

            "In each county pursuant to this chapter, the clerk of the superior court shall pay from each fee collected for the filing in his office of every new probate or civil matter, including appeals, abstracts or transcripts of judgments, the sum of three dollars for the support of the law library in that county, which shall be paid to the county treasurer to be credited tothe county law library fund.  There shall be paid to each justice of the peace in every civil action commenced in such court where the demand or value of the property in controversy is one hundred dollars or more, in addition to the other fees required by law the sum of one dollar and fifty cents as fees for the support of the law library in that county which are to be taxed as part of costs in each case:

            "(1) By each person instituting an action, when the first paper is filed;

            "(2) By each defendant, other adverse party, or intervenor, appearing separately when his appearance is entered on his first paper filed.

            "The justice of the peace shall pay such fees so collected to [the] county treasurer to be credited tothe county law library fund."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            The responsibility for the operation of a county law library is vested in a board of law library trustees.  RCW 27.24.063.  The powers of the board of law library trustees are set forth in RCW 27.24.064, which provides in pertinent part:

            "The board of law library trustees shall have power:

            ". . .

            "(5) To examine and approve for payment claims and demands payable out of the county law library fund."  (Emphasis supplied.)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            Thus, the county law library operation presents an instance where expenses are not payable from the current expense fund because "other legislative provision"‑-here, in the form of a county law library fund‑-has been made.  It is only from this fund that the board of law library trustees can make expenditures.  See, RCW 43.09.210, which provides as follows:

            "Separate accounts shall be kept for every appropriation or fund of a taxing or legislative body showing date and manner of each payment made therefrom, the name, address, and vocation of each person, organization, corporation, or association to whom paid, and for what purpose paid.

            "Separate accounts shall be kept for each department, public improvement, undertaking, institution, and public service industry under the jurisdiction of every taxing body.

            "All service rendered by, or property transferred from, one department, public improvement, undertaking, institution, or public service industry to another, shall be paid for at its true and full value by the department, public improvement, undertaking, institution, or public service industry receiving the same, andno department, public improvement, undertaking, institution, or public service industry shall benefit in any financial manner whatever by an appropriation or fund made for the support of another.

            "All unexpended balances of appropriations shall be transferred to the fund from which appropriated, whenever the account with an appropriation is closed."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Our conclusion, however, does not mean that the county law library fund is limited to the filing fees provided for in  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] RCW 27.24.070 as its sole source of revenue.  It is a fund as any other county fund.  There is no legal reason why taxes cannot be used as another source of revenue for the fund, as long as they are levied and collected directly into that fund and not initially into the county current expense fund.  RCW 36.40.010 provides as follows:

            "On or before the second Monday in July of each year the county auditor shall notify in writing each county official, elective or appointive, in charge of an office, department, service, or institution of the county, to file with him on or before the second Monday in August thereafter detailed and itemized estimates, both of the probable revenues from sources other than taxation, and of all expenditures required by such office, department, service, or institution for the ensuing fiscal year."

            After conclusion of all preliminary budget matters and hearings, the board of county commissioners is required to fix each budget item and RCW 36.40.090 provides as follows:

            "The board of county commissioners shall then fix the amount of the levies necessary to raise the amount of the estimated expenditures as finally determined, less the total of the estimated revenues from sources other than taxation, including such portion of any available surplus as in the discretion of the board it shall be advisable to so use, and such expenditures as are to be met from bond or warrant issues:  Provided, That no county shall retain an unbudgeted cash balance in the current expense fund in excess of a sum equal to the proceeds of a five mill levy against the assessed valuation of the county.  All taxes shall be levied in specific sums and shall not exceed the amount specified in the preliminary budget."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 6]]

            Therefore, if the county commissioners approve the county law library budget calling for expenditures in excess of revenues available under RCW 27.24.070, they have only to allocate a certain portion of the county's tax levy into the law library fund as may be needed.  However, once the money is levied and collected into the county current expense fund under its budget, the money may not be diverted into the law library fund.  RCW 43.09.210,supra.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Assistant Attorney General

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