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AGO 1959 No. 72 - October 05, 1959
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

DISTRICTS - FIRE PROTECTION - TAX LEVY ON PROPERTY INCORPORATED AS A MUNICIPALITY UNDER CHAPTER 237, LAWS OF 1959.

(1) Where a fire protection district includes all or a portion of a municipality, the district is authorized to levy its full millage for 1959 on all property within the district including that within the municipality.

(2) Where a municipality has incorporated after June 11, 1959, and under chapter 237, Laws of 1959, is automatically withdrawn from the fire protection district, the district may nevertheless levy its full millage on the entire district as it existed prior to the incorporation of the municipality.

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                                                                 October 5, 1959

Mr. Donald H. Webster, Director
Bureau of Governmental Researchand Services
University of Washington
266 J. Allen Smith Hall
Seattle 5, Washington                                                                                       Cite as:  AGO 59-60 No. 72

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged, you requested an opinion of this office concerning two questions involving chapter 237, Laws of 1959, which we paraphrase as follows:

            (1) When a fire protection district includes all or a portion of a municipality, may the assessed valuation of that portion of land of such district lying within the municipality be withdrawn and segregated on June 11, 1959 (the effective date of chapter 237, Laws of 1959, providing for the removal), so that such district could levy its full authorized millage only on the portion of such district not within the municipality?

            (2) When a municipality has incorporated after June 11, 1959 (the effective date of chapter 237, Laws of 1959) and therefore, by virtue of section 5 of chapter 237, is automatically withdrawn from the fire protection district of which such municipality was a part, may such district levy its full  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] authorized millage on its entire district as it existed prior to the incorporation of the municipality?

            Question (1) is answered in the negative.  Question (2) is answered in the affirmative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            (1) The statutes necessary for a determination of question (1) read, in pertinent part, as follows:

            RCW 84.08.160:

            "For the purposes of property taxation and the levy of property taxes the boundaries of counties, cities and all other taxing districts shall be the established official boundaries of such districts existing on the first day of March of the year in which the levy is made, and no such levy shall be made for any taxing district whose boundaries were not duly established on the first day of March of such year. . . ."

            Chapter 237, Laws of 1959, became effective June 11, 1959, and section 6 thereof provides:

            "Effective January 1, 1960, every city or town, or portion thereof, which is situated within the boundaries of a fire protection district shall become automatically removed from such fire protection district, and no fire protection district shall thereafter include any city or town, or portion thereof, within its boundaries."  (Emphasis supplied)

            Since RCW 84.08.160 provides that the boundaries of all taxing districts shall be the official boundaries of such districts existing on March 1 of the year in which the levy is made, we must look to the boundaries of the fire district as of March 1, 1959, which would include municipalities then existing within the fire district.  Any change in the boundaries of a taxing district after March 1 would not affect the levy since the statute prescribes the boundaries for tax purposes to be the established official boundaries existing as of March 1 of the year in which the levy is made.

            In addition, although chapter 237, Laws of 1959, became effective June 11, 1959, section 6, which provides for the removal of municipalities previously existing within the district, provides that such municipalities shall not be withdrawn until January 1, 1960.  Pursuant to this section, the removal of the municipalities would not occur until January 1, 1960, and hence a fire protection district could not exclude a municipality  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] before that date, several months after the actual levy is made in October.

            We conclude, therefore, that a fire district may not exclude municipalities from its boundaries on June 11, 1959, and thereby levy its full millage only on the portion remaining.  The proper time for a fire district to exclude a municipality would be in the following year, when its boundaries on March 1 would not include such municipalities.

            (2) Section 5, chapter 237, Laws of 1959, amending RCW 52.22.020, provides:

            "The incorporation of any previously unincorporated land lying within a fire protection district shall operate to automatically withdraw such lands from the fire protection district."

            Since section 5 of the act became effective June 11, 1959, a municipality incorporating on or after June 11, 1959, would be automatically excluded from the fire district.  The question then to be determined is whether the fire district can still levy its full authorized millage on the entire district, including the newly created municipality, as it existed on March 1, 1959, prior to the time the municipality incorporated.

            Section 7 of the act provides:

            "The provisions of RCW 57.28.110 shall apply to territory withdrawn from a fire protection district under the provision of chapter 52.22 RCW."

            Therefore, RCW 57.28.110 applies to territory withdrawn from a fire protection district.  It provides that:

            "Any and all taxes or assessments levied or assessed against property located in territory withdrawn from a water district [fire district] shall remain a lien and be collectible as by law provided when such taxes or assessments are levied or assessed prior to such withdrawal or when such levies or assessments are duly made to provide revenue for the payment of general obligations or general obligation bonds of the water district duly incurred or issued prior to such withdrawal."

            In addition, under the provisions of RCW 84.08.160, supra, for purposes of property taxation the boundaries of all taxing districts are to be the  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] established official boundariesexisting on March 1 the boundaries existing on that date would include the municipalities, and it is, therefore, immaterial that the municipalities be subsequently withdrawn.

            We have previously interpreted the effect of this statute, in an opinion dated November 1, 1949, to the Prosecuting Attorney of Whatcom County [[Opinion No. 49-51-150]].  There we stated that, "In view of the express provisions of the above statute, [RCW 84.08.160] it appears clear that a taxing district may levy its taxes upon taxable property in the area included within its boundaries as of the first day of March in the year in which the levy is made regardless of subsequent alterations."

            Therefore, even though property be withdrawn from the fire protection district subsequent to March 1, the property so withdrawn would still be subject to taxation by the district, the same as if the property had not been withdrawn from the fire district.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

RICHARD M. MONTECUCCO
Assistant Attorney General

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