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AGO 1956 No. 315 - September 11, 1956
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

SCHOOLS ‑- COUNTIES ‑- COUNTY BUDGETS ‑- COUNTY COMMISSIONERS ‑- COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS ‑- COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, POWERS OF

RCW 28.19.110 (§ 29, chapter 157, Laws of 1955) removes from the board of county commissioners the discretionary authority to determine the amount of funds to be annually allocated to the county superintendent of schools, and requires the county commissioners to allocate the amount of funds to the county superintendent of schools that is certified as needed by the county board of education to the board of county commissioners.

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                                                              September 11, 1956

Honorable Charles O. Carroll
Prosecuting Attorney of King County
County-City Building
Seattle, Washington

                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 315

Attention:  !ttMr. K. G. Smiles

            Chief Civil Deputy

Dear Sir:

            You have requested the opinion of this office relative to the effect of RCW 28.19.110 (1955 Supp.) on chapter 36.40 RCW.  Specifically you inquire whether RCW 28.19.110 (1955 Supp.) must be construed literally so as to remove from the board of county commissioners the discretionary authority given the commissioners by RCW chapter 36.40 to determine the amount of funds to be annually allocated to the county superintendent of schools and thereby require the commissioners to allocate the amount of funds to the superintendent that is certified as needed by the county board of education.

            We answer your question in the affirmative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]                                                                           

            RCW 28.19.110 (1955 Supp.) provides as follows:                                                                     

            "The board of county commissioners of each county annually at the time the budgets are prepared for the several county offices shall allocate from county funds to the county superintendent for his budget, the amount certified to the board of county commissioners by the county board of education as the amount needed from county funds for the county superintendent's budget."

            At the outset we must consider what effect the legislature intended the foregoing statute to have in view of its terms and provisions.  The language of RCW 28.19.110 (1955 Supp.) indicates that it is the legislative command to the county commissioners to allocate to the county superintendent of schools annually the amount of money which the county board of education certifies to the county commissioners as needed by the superintendent.  Nowhere are the county commissioners given discretion to redetermine the amount, nor would any reading of this statute allow such an implication.  The command is clear, forthright and unambiguous.

            On the contrary, the very purpose of this enactment appears to be to withdraw from the board of county commissioners the discretion it formerly possessed in this matter.  If this were not the case there would appear to be no reason for enacting this statute.

            Therefore, in our opinion, the legislature intended this statute to transfer the discretionary authority of the board of county commissioners to determine the amount of funds annually allocated to the county superintendent of schools to the county board of education.

            Next we must determine whether or not the legislature has the power to so provide.  The Twenty-first Amendment to the Washington State Constitution provides in part as follows:

            "The legislature shall establish a system of county government, which shall be uniform throughout the state except as hereinafter provided, and by general laws shall provide for township organization, under which any county may organize whenever a majority of the qualified electors of such county voting at a general election shall so determine; and whenever a county shall adopt township organization, the assessment and collection of the revenue shall be made, and the business of such county and the local affairs of the several townships therein, shall be managed and transacted in the  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] manner prescribed by such general law."

            Legislative authority over counties is unlimited, except as that limitation is found in the State Constitution.  State ex rel. Board of County Commissioners v. Clausen, 95 Wash. 214; State ex rel. Cruikshank v. Baker, 2 Wn. (2d) 145.  The legislature has the power to abolish the office of county assessor and transfer his duties to the county treasurer.  State ex rel. Weston v. Schragg, 158 Wash. 74.

            The legislature may, subject to constitutional restrictions, limit the powers of a board of county commissioners or alter them, either by enlarging, curtailing or taking them away, as it sees fit.  20 C.J.S. 851852, Counties, § 82.  Subject to constitutional restrictions, the legislature may vest in other officers powers and administrative duties pertaining to county affairs.  20 C.J.S. 853, Counties, § 82.

            The case ofThursby v. Stewart, 103 Fla. 990, 138 So. 742, held that a legislature had the power to transfer the authority over the county fair from the county commissioners to a separate county fair association and to require the commissioners to allocate $6,000.00 a year to the association.

            An opinion of this office to the Honorable John Hancock, prosecuting attorney of Okanogan County, under date of June 22, 1956, AGO 55-57 No. 287, construing RCW 28.20.030 (1955 Supp.), which provides that all members of the county board of education shall be reimbursed by the county for their actual and necessary expenses, held that the determination of the county board as to the amount allowable for expenses was binding on the county commissioners.  Therefore, since there is no constitutional provision prohibiting it, we see no reason why the legislature does not possess the power to vest in the county board of education final discretion as to the amount of money that the county commissioners shall annually allocate to the county superintendent of schools.

            Your letter suggests that it might be unwise to grant the county board of education power to control moneys raised for county purposes.  We feel that this objection is not well founded in view of the foregoing authorities, and in view of the decision inNewman v. Schlarb, 184 Wash. 147.  That case held that the state could compel a county to levy taxes for general state educational purposes since the state education program by its very nature provided special benefits to the county.  The court observed, in reaching this conclusion, that in discharging its general public duty of public education the legislature could select any method of administering the educational program that it saw fit.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            Finally, what is the effect of RCW 28.19.110 (1955 Supp.) with respect to the county budget statutes, chapter 36.40 RCW?

            You have indicated that you felt RCW 28.19.110 (1955 Supp.) conflicted with our statutes relating to county budgets, chapter 36.40 RCW.  With this contention we agree.  However, we are of the opinion that to the extent of such inconsistency, chapter 36.40 RCW must be regarded as amended by implication and thereby superseded by RCW 28.19.110 (1955 Supp.).  SeeSpokane Grain & Fuel Co. v. Lyttaker, 59 Wash. 76.

            We conclude that RCW 28.19.110 (1955 Supp.) removed from the board of county commissioners the discretionary authority to determine the amount of funds to be annually allocated to the county superintendent of schools, and requires the county commissioners to allocate the amount of funds to the county superintendent of schools that is certified as needed by the county board of education to the board of county commissioners.

            We hope the foregoing analysis will prove helpful.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General


ANDY G. ENGEBRETSEN
Assistant Attorney General

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