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AGO 1958 No. 174 - March 28, 1958
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

MUNICIPAL CORPORATIONS ‑- FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT ‑- AUTHORITY OF TOWNSHIP TO CONTRIBUTE.

TOWNSHIPS ‑- CONTRIBUTION OF FUNDS TO FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT.

Townships may not appropriate funds to fire protection districts although the boundaries of the district and the township coincide.

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                                                                  March 28, 1958

Honorable Tom A. Durham
Prosecuting Attorney
Whatcom County
Court House, 311 Grand Avenue
Bellingham, Washington                                                                                      Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 174

Attention:  Mr. Richard Waters, Deputy

Dear Sir:

            By letter, previously acknowledged, you have requested the advice of this office on the following question:

            May a township appropriate money to a newly formed fire district when the boundaries of the fire district include the same boundaries of the township?

            Your question is answered in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 45.12.030 provides as follows:

            "No town shall possess or exercise any corporate powers except such as are enumerated in this title or are especially given by law or necessary to the exercise of the powers so enumerated or granted."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            In an opinion dated January 5, 1951, to the prosecuting attorney of Whatcom County (AGO 49-51 No. 414) [[Opinion No. 49-51-414]], this office was concerned with interpreting that specific statutory provision.  That opinion stated as follows concerning the general authority of township governments:

            "Not only is the authority of township governments expressly limited by the Washington State Constitution and statutes enacted pursuant thereto, but it is a rule of law that township governments have no power to make contracts for the payment of money where they are not authorized to raise money to discharge such contracts by a tax on the inhabitants, 52 Am.Jur., Towns and Townships, § 39.  An examination of the statutes of this state fails to reveal any authority for township governments to levy a tax for the purpose of employing fire departments."

            It seems clear that if a township has no authority to contract for the employment of fire departments of municipalities, it has no authority to contract with, much less to contribute funds to, a fire protection district.

            Accordingly, it is our conclusion that a township may not appropriate funds to a fire protection district in spite of the fact that its boundaries may coincide.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

JAMES R. CUNNINGHAM
Assistant Attorney General

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