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AGO 1956 No. 336 - October 30, 1956
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

TAXATION; PROPERTY TAXES; EQUALIZATION

There appears to be no constitutional defect in proposed legislation which would constitute boards of school directors or boards of equalization with respect to property in school districts for purposes of school district taxes.

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                                                                October 30, 1956

Honorable John N. Ryder
Chairman, Subcommittee on
Revenue and Taxation
206-C Administration Building
University of Washington
Seattle, Washington                                                                                      Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 336

Dear Sir:

            You have requested our opinion as to whether the following proposal, if adopted by the legislature, would be constitutional.  The proposal contemplates establishing by statute a provision designating each school board in the state of Washington as a local board of equalization for school tax purposes, somewhat similar to the provisions which empower certain city officials to meet with county commissioners as a board of equalization.  The board of school directors would be authorized to review the valuations set by the county assessor and to equalize them to obtain uniformity within the school district for purposes of the school district taxes.

            It is our conclusion that the proposal would be constitutional.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Such legislation would have to comply with the limitations of Article XI, section 12 of the state constitution which provides:

            "The legislature shall have no power to impose taxes upon counties, cities, towns or other municipal corporations, or  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] upon the inhabitants or property thereof, for county, city, town, or other municipal purposes, but may, by general laws, vest in the corporate authorities thereof, the power to assess and collect taxes for such purposes."

            This prohibition against imposition by the state of taxes for local purposes has consistently been applied by our supreme court to the functions of valuation and equalization as well as that of imposition.  State ex rel. State Tax Commission v. Redd, 166 Wash. 132, 6 P. (2d) 619;State ex rel. Yakima v. Yakima County, 192 Wash. 179, 73 P. (2d) 759;Clark v. Seiber, 148 Wash. Dec. 722 [[48 Wn.2d 783]].  At least some, if not all, school district taxes are held to be imposed for local purposes and are therefore subject to the limitations of the above section of the constitution.  Clark v. Seiber, supra.  With respect to school taxes then, the legislature cannot delegate to other than local officials the duty of valuing or equalizing property values against which such taxes will be imposed.

            There appears, however, to be no restriction as to which local officials may be delegated with the duty of determining the value of property and of equalizing that value for local taxes.  It has been held that the county assessor may be delegated with the duty of assessing property within a township for township taxes, a function which had previously been performed by township assessors only.  Opportunity Township v. Kingsland, 194 Wash. 229, 77 P. (2d) 793.  And it has been held that the legislature acted constitutionally in transferring to county officials the duty of listing, valuing and equalizing property within a city for city taxes.  Seattle v. Carson, 6 Wash. 250, 33 Pac. 428.

            The constitution does not require that the valuation and equalization of property for local taxes be done by any specific official‑-simply that they be done by local officials.  The county board of equalization is not a constitutional body; its existence and duties derive solely from legislative enactment.  We know of no reason why the legislature may not create another similar body composed of local officials to whom is delegated the duty of equalizing valuations of property within school districts for school taxes.

Very truly yours,


DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

KEITH GRIM
Assistant Attorney General

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