EXPENDITURE OF CURRENT EXPENSE FUNDS BY COUNTY COMMISSIONERS FOR AN IMPROVEMENT OF A COUNTY AIRPORT
Current expense funds may not be expended directly for a county improvement, but may be transferred to a cumulative expense fund set up for that purpose under RCW 36.33.020.
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August 10, 1956
Honorable Charles O. Carroll
Prosecuting Attorney of King County
Seattle 4, Washington
Cite as: AGO 55-57 No. 311
Attention: !ttMr. K. G. Smiles
Chief Civil Deputy
In your letter of July 11, 1956, previously acknowledged, you requested our opinion on a question which we paraphrase as follows:
May King County expend money in the current expense fund to acquire land, relocate utilities and fence a proposed clear zone at the north end of King County Airport, the moneys so expended to be refunded out of the airport fund?
We answer your question in the affirmative, provided the procedure outlined in the analysis is followed:
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
The three statutes pertinent to the problem are as follows:
"The governing bodies having power to appropriate moneys within municipalities acquiring, establishing, constructing, enlarging, improving, maintaining, equipping, or operating airports and other air navigation facilities under the provisions hereof, may appropriate and cause to be raised by taxation or otherwise moneys sufficient to carry out the provisions of this chapter."
"Every county shall maintain a current expense fund to which shall be credited all taxes levied for that purpose and all fees collected, fines assessed, and forfeitures adjudged in the county the proceeds of which have not been specifically allocated to any other purpose."
"The board of county commissioners may establish a cumulative reserve fund for the construction of a particular building or improvement and annually budget and levy tax therefor. It may also accept gifts and make transfers from the current expense fund for that purpose."
Our court inState ex rel. Republic v. Harvey, 108 Wash. 48, held that the acquisition of a site and the construction of a building did not constitute a current expense. Consequently it would appear that there could be no direct appropriation from the current expense fund for that purpose.
The legislature, however, in 1945, realizing the need for the machinery to enable a county to construct and make improvements, enacted § 1, chapter 51, Laws of 1945, codified as RCW 36.33.020. This statute provides for the setting up of a cumulative reserve fund for the accomplishment of a particular project. It further authorizes the board of county commissioners to make transfers from the current expense fund for that purpose.
[[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
It should be noted that provision is made for refunding to the current expense fund from the cumulative reserve fund. RCW 36.33.040 provides that upon the completion of the purpose of the cumulative fund, any balance remaining in said fund may be transferred to any other cumulative fund or to the current expense fund. Thus, repayment from the airport fund to the cumulative fund may be transferred to the current expense fund.
We conclude, therefore, that King County may expend money out of the current expense fund to acquire land, relocate utilities and fence a proposed clear zone by first establishing a cumulative reserve fund for that purpose, and then transferring the necessary funds from the current expense fund into the cumulative reserve.
We hope the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
Assistant Attorney General