Navigation Top
AGO Logo Graphic
AGO Header Image
File a Complaint
Contact the AGO
AGO 1965 No. 45 - October 08, 1965
AGO Opinion Header Image
John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


TAXATION ‑- PROPERTY TAX ‑- LIMITATION ON TAX LEVY ‑- MAXIMUM REVENUE ‑- MILLAGE.

The "total dollar amount" of regular property tax revenues which constitutes one of the factors determinative of the maximum amount of regular property tax revenue which a taxing district can receive without a vote of the people under chapter 174, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess., is the actual total dollar amount of regular property tax revenues that the particular taxing district levied in the preceding year irrespective of whether such dollar amount of tax revenues represented the full amount which could have been realized had the taxing district levied taxes at the maximum millage available to such district within the 40 mill limit.

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

                                                                 October 8, 1965

Honorable Charles O. Carroll
Prosecuting Attorney
King County Court House
Seattle, Washington 98104

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 65-66 No. 45

Dear Sir:

            By a previously acknowledged letter you have requested our opinion on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            Is the "total dollar amount" of regular property tax revenues which constitutes one of the factors determinative of the maximum amount of regular property tax revenue which a taxing district can levy in 1965 without a vote of the people under chapter 174, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess., limited to the actual total dollar amount of regular property tax revenues that the particular taxing district levied in 1964, even if the particular taxing district did not in fact levy taxes at the maximum millage rate available to it within the 40 mill limit in 1964?

            We answer in the affirmative for the reasons set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Chapter 174, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess., establishes a statutory limit on the amount of ad valorem tax revenue which a  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] taxing district may receive without a vote of the electors residing within the district.1/   This limit is specifically set forth‑-in the case of existing taxing districts‑-in § 2 of the act as follows:2/

            "In addition to the other limitations provided by law, a taxing district's regular property tax revenue shall be limited so that the taxing district's total amount of regular property tax revenues from taxes levied in any year and payable in the following year shall not exceed the sum of the following:

            "(1) Thetotal dollar amount of regular property tax revenues in that taxing districtfrom taxes levied in the preceding year and payable in the current year including in the case of a school district the revenues derived by the state from any property tax for the support of common schools levied upon property located within such school district;

            "(2) An additional dollar amount calculated by multiplying the increase of assessed value in that taxing district resulting from the appraisal and valuation of property improved, constructed, or revalued, and resulting from the addition of property in areas annexed, during the period from March 2 of the preceding year to March 1 of the current year by the property tax levy rate of that taxing district for taxes levied the preceding year.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "(3) And an additional dollar amount, in the case of a county, representing the increased and additional costs to be expended by the county assessor in the year the taxes are payable to enable the county assessor of that county to carry out any program of appraisal and valuation of property within the county required by the Constitution or laws of the state.

            "Unless otherwise altered as authorized by section 5, the maximum millage rate shall be determined by dividing the total authorized dollar amount by the assessed valuation."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            The key phrase "regular property tax revenue" is defined in § 1 to mean the total revenue from all levies within the particular district with the exception of excess levies, levies for bond debt retirement, and port district levies under RCW 53.36.100.3/   Provision for exceeding this statutory limitation appears in § 5 of the act.4/

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            In substance it is to be seen that chapter 174 restricts the total dollar amount of regular property tax revenue a taxing district may levy in any one year to an amount which does not exceed the sum of the foregoing three items or factors set forth in § 2, supra‑-without a vote of the people as provided in § 5.  However, your question involves the meaning of only the first of these three factors.

            In our opinion, the language of subsection (1), § 2, chapter 174, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess.,supra, describing this particular factor, is plain, clear and unambiguous.  The measuring or determinative "total dollar amount of regular property tax revenues" is clearly expressed to be the total amount of such revenues derived from taxes "levied in the preceding year and payable in the current year . . ."  For us to read into the statute any other criteria‑-such as the total dollar amount of regular tax revenues which could have been levied had the taxing district levied the full millage available to it within the constitutional 40 mill limit5/ ‑-would be for us to legislate, a prerogative of the legislative branch of the government only.

            Accordingly we have no alternative but to conclude that the manifest legislative intent as expressed in chapter 174, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess.,supra, was to limit a taxing district's regular property tax revenue without a vote of the people to a total dollar amount not in excess of the sum of factors two and three6/ plus the actual total dollar amount of regular property tax revenues which the particular taxing district levied in the preceding year irrespective of whether such dollar amount of tax revenue represented the full amount which could have been realized had the taxing district levied taxes at the maximum millage available to it within the 40 mill limit.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            Thus we answer your question as above paraphrased (making specific reference to the relationship between 1965 taxes and taxes actually levied in 1964) in the affirmative.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

HENRY W. WAGER
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/This statutory limit is in addition to the constitutional 40 mill limit which has been in effect since 1944 by reason of Amendment 17 to the Washington Constitution.

2/See, § 3, chapter 714, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess., as to new taxing districts levying taxes for the first time.

3/This section also defines the terms "regular property tax levy," "revalue" or "revalued," and "taxing district."

4/This section provides:

            "Notwithstanding the limitations set forth in sections 2, 3, and 4 of this act, the regular property tax revenues of a district may be increased, subject to the limitations of the provisions of Article VII, section 2, of the Constitution of the state of Washington and RCW 84.52.050, by a proposition approved by a majority of the voters of the taxing district voting on the proposition at a general election held within the taxing district, or at a special election of the taxing district held at the time of a state general election, or at the time of a general election of a city or town in which said taxing district is wholly included.  The proposition so voted on shall also state the estimated millage rate proposed.  Thereafter the new amount fixed at such election shall be used to compute the maximum amount permitted as such taxing district's regular property tax revenue as provided in section 2 unless such increase is limited for a specified number of years or such amount is subsequently increased or decreased pursuant to this section."

5/See Footnote 1, supra.

6/See Subsections (2) and (3), § 2, chapter 174, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess., supra.

Content Bottom Graphic
AGO Logo