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AGO 1966 No. 106 - September 27, 1966
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


DISTRICTS ‑- SCHOOLS ‑- BOUNDARIES ‑- EFFECT OF CITY EXTENDING ITS CORPORATE LIMITS ‑- COUNTY COMMITTEE ON SCHOOL ORGANIZATION ‑- RIGHTS OF SCHOOL DISTRICT RESIDENTS IN AREA ANNEXED TO FIRST CLASS CITY.

(1) When a city of the first class which is presently contained within a single first class school district extends its territorial boundaries by annexing unincorporated territory outside its corporate limits‑-which territory is part of a second class school district operating elementary schools on several sites, a junior high school and a senior high school‑-it is not mandatory, under RCW 28.57.150, that the territory of the second class district be annexed to the city school district.

(2) Same:  Under the facts set forth in (1), the county committee on school district organization may not, in the exercise of its discretion under RCW 28.57.150, annex the territory to the school district containing the city‑-such discretion having been removed by amendment during the 1965 legislature.See, § 1, chapter 108, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess.

(3) Same:  Under the facts set forth in (1), the residents of the territory annexed to the first class city may not require the territory to be annexed to the school district containing the city.

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                                                              September 27, 1966

Honorable George A. Kain
Prosecuting Attorney
Spokane County Court House
Spokane, Washington 99201

                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 65-66 No. 106

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you have requested an opinion of this office on several questions regarding the applicability of RCW 28.57.150, as amended by § 1, chapter 108, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess., to the following factual situation:

            The city of Spokane is a first class city.  Spokane School District No. 81 is a first class school district covering all the territory within the city limits of the city of Spokane,  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] and, in addition certain areas outside the city which have been annexed to the school district.  The city of Spokane is presently contemplating the annexation of certain territory which lies within the boundaries of a second class school district and which is not a part of any other incorporated city or town.  This second class school district operates elementary schools on several sites, one junior high school and one senior high school.

            We paraphrase your questions as follows:

            (1) If the city of Spokane extends its corporate boundaries by annexing the territory described above, is it mandatory, under RCW 28.57.150, that the school district boundaries be changed by annexation of the territory of the second class district to Spokane School District No. 81?

            (2) If question (1) is answered in the negative, does the county committee on school district organization, under RCW 28.57.150, have the authority, in the exercise of its discretion, to annex to Spokane School District No. 81, the territory of the second class district which has been annexed to the city of Spokane?

            (3) May the residents of the territory annexed to the city require annexation of the area to Spokane School District No. 81 under RCW 28.58.150?

            We answer all three questions in the negative for the reasons set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 28.57.150 (as amended by § 1, chapter 108, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess.) provides as follows:

            "Except as otherwise provided for herein ((in certain cases involving school districts affected by extensions of the limits of a city or town)), each incorporated city or town in the state shall be comprised in one school district:  PROVIDED, That nothing in this section shall be construed:  (1) To prevent the extension of the boundaries of a school district beyond the limits of the city or town contained therein, or (2) to prevent the inclusion of two or more incorporated cities or towns in a single school district, or (3) to change or disturb the boundaries of any school district  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] organized prior to the incorporation of any city or town, except ((in case of the extension of the limits of a city or town beyond the boundaries of the school district in which it is situated, or the incorporation of a city or town containing territory lying in two or more school districts organized prior to the incorporation of such city or town, or the uniting of two or more cities or towns not located in the same school district))as hereafter provided.

            "In case all or any part of a school district that operates a school or schools on one site only or operates elementary schools only on two or more sites and is not a component district within a union high school district, is included in an incorporated city or town through the extension of the limits of such city or town in the manner provided by law, the county superintendent shall:  (1) Declare the territory so included to be a part of the school district containing the city or town, and (2) whenever a part of a district so included contains a school building of the district, present to the county committee a proposal for the disposition of any part or all of the remaining territory of the district.

            "In case of the extension of the limits of a city or town other than a city of the first, second or third class to include (1) territory lying in a school district that operates on more than one site one or more elementary schools and one or more junior high schools or high schools, or (2) territory lying in a nonhigh school district that is a component district within a union high school district and operates two or more elementary schools on separate sites, the county committee shall, in its discretion, prepare a proposal or proposals for annexation to the school district in which the city or town is located any part or all of the territory aforesaid which has been included in the city or town and for annexation to the school district in which the city or town is located or to some other school district or districts any part or all of the remaining territory of the school district affected by extension of the limits of the city or town:  PROVIDED, That where no school  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] or school site is located within the territory annexed to the city or town and not less than seventy-five percent of the heads of families residing within the annexed territory present a petition in writing for annexation and transfer of said territory to the school district in which the city or town is located, the county superintendent shall declare the territory so included to be a part of the school district containing said city or town:  PROVIDED FURTHER, That territory approved for annexation to a city or town by vote of the electors residing therein prior to January 12, 1953, shall not be subject to the provisions herein respecting annexation to a school district or school districts:  PROVIDED FURTHER, That the provisions and procedural requirements of chapter 28.57 [[chapter 28.57 RCW]]as now or hereafter amended not in conflict with or inconsistent with the provisions hereinabove stated shall apply in the case of any proposal or proposals (1) for the alteration of the boundaries of school districts through and by means of annexation of territory as aforesaid, and (2) for the adjustment of the assests [[assets]]and liabilities of the school districts involved or affected thereby.

            "In case of the incorporation of a city or town containing territory lying in two or more school districts or of the uniting of two or more cities or towns not located in the same school district, the county superintendent shall,except where the incorporation or consolidation would affect a district or districts of the first class:  (1) Order and declare to be established in each such case a single school district comprising all of the school districts involved, and (2) designate each such district by name and by a number different from that of any component thereof or of any other district in existence in the county.

            "The county superintendent may, if he deems such action advisable, fix as the effective date of any declaration or order required under this section the first day of July next succeeding the date of the issuance of such declaration or order."1/

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            In construing the foregoing statute our fundamental purpose is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the legislature.  In re Bale, 63 Wn.2d 83, 385 P.2d 545 (1963).  Our first resort is to the context and subject matter of the legislation because the intention of the lawmakers is to be deduced, if possible, from the words used.  Hatzenbuhler v. Harrison, 49 Wn.2d 691, 306 P.2d 745 (1957); Guinness v. State, 40 Wn.2d 677, 246 P.2d 433 (1952).  Our supreme court has said that legislative intent is to be ascertained from the statutory text as a whole and not from merely a portion thereof, interpreted in terms of the general object and purpose of the act.  See,Guinness v. State, supra.

            RCW 28.57.150,supra, is not, for the most part, plain, clear and unambiguous.  Thus, as the court said inState ex rel. Ralston v. Dept. of Licenses, 60 Wn.2d 535, 540, 374 P.2d 571 (1962):

            ". . . we have here a situation necessitating a judicial evaluation of statutory language, and implementation thereof, in terms of purposeful legislative activity‑-a task which any reasonably prudent jurist would readily agree is usually most difficult.  The easy way would be to rely on an appropriate maxim of statutory construction, attach it to a handy, predetermined conclusion, and pronounce judgment.  It is at best a tenuous, difficult undertaking to attempt to articulate the real basis of a decision; i.e., what the conglomerate mass activity of legislators did or did not accomplish and effectuate, in terms of legal sanctions, by enacting or formalizing given language into statutory law."

            From the House Journal for the 1965 session it appears that the primary purpose of the amendatory language2/ was to remove the prior requirement that school district boundaries be coextensive with the boundaries of a city.  See, H.J., pp. 303, 504 and 2081.  Illustrative of this purpose is the following statement made by Representative Dootsen during debate in the House of Representatives:

            ". . . if you incorporate a new town or community, the schools in that community cannot lie within two separate school districts;  [[Orig. Op. Page 6]] therefore, when a new town is formed, the children will be uprooted from one district to another, because you cannot have two school districts within the same town.  That has occurred in a few instances, especially up in Snohomish County where the new town of Brier was formed.  Because of the formation of this town, there were about one hundred students who would have to leave the Northshore District and go to Edmonds.  Northshore is not overcrowded, but Edmonds is.  So this worked a hardship."  (P. 1163.)

            With this background in mind we will proceed to consider your questions in the order presented above.

            Question (1):

            If the city of Spokane extends its corporate boundaries by annexing the territory described above, is it mandatory, under RCW 28.57.150, that the school district boundaries be changed by the annexation of the territory of the second class district to Spokane School District No. 81?

            The only portion of RCW 28.57.150 which makes it mandatory that school district boundaries be altered where a city extends its boundaries is the second paragraph, which provides:

            "In case all or any part of a school district that operates a school or schools on one site only or operates elementary schools only on two or more sites and is not a component district within a union high school district, is included in an incorporated city or town through the extension of the limits of such city or town in the manner provided by law, the county superintendent shall:  (1) Declare the territory so included to be a part of the school district containing the city or town, and (2) whenever a part of a district so included contains a school building of the district, present to the county committee a proposal for the disposition of any part or all of the remaining territory of the district."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Under the facts stated above, this quoted provision can have no application.  The second class school district you have  [[Orig. Op. Page 7]] described operates more than one elementary school on several sites, a junior high school and one senior high school.  Thus the "nature of its operation" takes it outside the mandatory annexation provision.

            Accordingly, any extension of the city limits of the city of Spokane to take territory presently served by the second class district in question will result in no mandatory change in the territorial boundaries of the school district.

            Question (2):

            If question (1) is answered in the negative, does the county committee on school district organization, under RCW 28.57.150, have the authority, in the exercise of its discretion, to annex to Spokane School District No. 81, the territory of the second class district which has been annexed to the city of Spokane.

            This question is also answered in the negative because the pertinent portion of paragraph three of RCW 28.57.150, supra, as amended by the 1965 legislature, applies only

            "In case of the extension of the limits of a city or town other than a city of the first, second or third class. . ."  (The underlined portion was added by amendment during the 1965 session.)

            Since Spokane is a city of the first class this portion of the statute does not apply in this instance.  In other words, the broad discretionary authority which the county committee possessed under RCW 28.57.150 prior to its amendment was limited by the action of the 1965 legislature.3/

             Question (3):

            May the residents of the territory annexed to the city require annexation of the area to Spokane School District No. 81 under RCW 28.57.150?

            The pertinent portion of RCW 28.57.150 reads as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 8]]

            "In case of the extension of the limits of a city or town other than a city of the first, second or third class to include (1) territory lying in a school district that operates on more than one site one or more elementary schools and one or more junior high schools or high schools, or (2) territory lying in a nonhigh school district that is a component district within a union high school district and operates two or more elementary schools on separate sites, the county committee shall, in its discretion, prepare a proposal or proposals for annexation to the school district in which the city or town is located any part or all of the territory aforesaid which has been included in the city or town and for annexation to the school district in which the city or town is located or to some other school district or districts any part or all of the remaining territory of the school district affected by extension of the limits of the city or town:  Provided, That where no school or school site is located within the territory annexed to the city or town and not less than seventy-five percent of the heads of families residing within the annexed territory present a petition in writing for annexation and transfer of said territory to the school district in which the city or town is located, the county superintendent shall declare the territory so included to be a part of the school district containing said city or town: . . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            The general rules of construction governing a "proviso" are set forth inBayha v. Public Utility District No. 1, 2 Wn.2d 85, 96, 97 P.2d 614 (1939):

            "In 59 C.J. 1090, § 640, the rule relative to a proviso is stated as follows:

            "'The operation of a proviso is usually and properly confined to the clause or distinct portion of the enactment which immediately precedes it, and does not extend to or qualify other sections, unless the legislative intent that it shall so operate is clearly disclosed.'

             [[Orig. Op. Page 9]]

            "SeeState v. Robinson, 67 Wash. 425, 121 Pac. 848; also State v. Fabbri, 98 Wash. 207, 167 Pac. 133; 2 Lewis' Sutherland Statutory Construction (2d ed.), 673, § 352.

            "InTowson v. Denson, 74 Ark. 302, 86 S.W. 661, the rule is thus announced:

            "'"When the enacting clause is general in its language and objects, and a proviso is afterwards introduced, that proviso is construed strictly, and takes no case out of the enacting clause which does not fall fairly within its terms."'

            "InUnited States v. Bernays, 158 Fed. 792, we find the following statement:

            "'A proviso should be construed with reference to the subject-matter of the sentence of which it forms a part unless it clearly appears to be designed by the Legislature for a broader or more independent operation.'

            "See, also, 2 Lewis' Sutherland Statutory Construction (2d ed.), 811, § 420;State ex rel. Peck v. Anderson, 92 Mont. 298, 13 P.2d 231; Hopkins v. Anderson, 218 Cal. 62, 21 P.2d 560."

            Prior to the 1965 amendment limiting the application of the above‑cited statute to a city or townother than a city of the first, second or third class, it was apparent that the proviso above granted the residents of the area annexed to any class of city or town the right under the conditions stated to become a part of the city school district.  While this right remains under the amended section, it is now limited or restricted to cases involving the extension of the limits of a city other than a city of the first, second or third class.  In other words, the proviso now has application only in the case of the extension of a town of the fourth class.4/

             [[Orig. Op. Page 10]]

            Because Spokane is a first class city, the third paragraph and the proviso in question cannot apply in this instance.  Thus, the residents of the territory annexed to the city cannot require annexation to Spokane School District No. 81 under RCW 28.57.150, supra.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

THOMAS K. DALGLISH
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/The portion enclosed in double parenthesis and lined out was deleted; the underscored portion added by amendment.  Section 1, chapter 108, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess. ‑ H.B. No. 132.

2/See Footnote 1, supra.

3/Our response to question (2) is limited to consideration of the authority of the county committee under RCW 28.57.150.

4/The legislative history of the statute further supports the conclusion that the proviso in question refers only to the third paragraph.  The first proviso of the third paragraph was added by amendment in 1963.  Section 1, chapter 208, Laws of 1963.  At that time, the third paragraph applied to cities and towns of all classes.  Thus, the first proviso applied toall cities and towns.  But in 1965, the application of the third paragraph was limited to cities and towns of the fourth class by the express exclusion of cities and towns of the first, second and third class.  Section 1, chapter 108, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess.  Accordingly, the first proviso was similarly limited.

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