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Bob Ferguson

AGO 1953 No. 170 - Nov 17 1953
Attorney General Don Eastvold


The Bellingham budget ordinance for 1954 was duly enacted at the end of the budget hearing notwithstanding the fact that the ordinance was passed at the same meeting at which it was first introduced and the city council has no authority to recall the budget to amend or modify it, except in some special manner provided by law.

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                                                               November 17, 1953

Honorable Cliff Yelle
State Auditor
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 170

Attention:  Mr. A. E. Hankins

Dear Sir:

            This is supplementary to AGO 53-55 No. 163 [[to Cliff Yelle, State Auditor on November 2, 1953]]relating to the revision or modification of the 1954 budget of the city of Bellingham.  By letter dated November 6, 1953, Mr. Rinker, city attorney of Bellingham, has advised that there is some doubt whether the city council ever validly passed the budget ordinance.  The question is, as it was before, "may the city council recall and amend the budget?"

            In our opinion the answer is "no."


            The budget was presented to the city council on the first Monday in October, and thereafter the council held regularly continued meetings until October 8th, at which time a motion was passed adopting the budget.  Final passage of this ordinance came (in the legal sense) at the same council meeting at which it was  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] introduced.

            The Bellingham charter provides that no ordinance (with certain exceptions) shall be passed at the meeting at which it was first introduced.  The question is whether the budget ordinance was legally adopted.

            The proper interpretation of city charter provisions is for the city attorney to decide rather than this office.  Our only concern is that its final effect be in accord with the spirit and the letter of state law.  The rule may be stated as follows:

            "A general statute enacted by the legislature supersedes or modifies provisions of a city charter to the extent that they are in conflict."  Mosebar v. Moore, 41 Wn. (2d) 216, 248 P. (2d) 385.

            The state law with which we are concerned is that series of statutes known as the budget law.  RCW 35.33.070 provides, in part:

            "Upon the conclusion of the hearing the city commission or council shall * * * by ordinance adopt the budget, * * * It shall then by ordinance fix the amount necessary to be levied [to balance revenues and expenditures] * * * and certify the resulting remainder to the county commissioners as the amount to be raised by taxation.  * * *"

            The tax figure required to be fixed by ordinance is necessarily dependent upon the budget as adopted; otherwise, it could not be determined at all.  RCW 85.52.020 (cf. RRS § 11236) requires the city council to file the tax figure as set out by ordinance with the county commissioners on or before the Wednesday following the first Monday in October in each year.  This requirement is apparently in conflict with the provision of RCW 35.33.070, which permits the council to continue the final budget hearing for a period not to exceed five days.  In any event, it is clear that the city must have passed its budget ordinance at the latest, not more than five days after the first Monday in October.  If the city has not submitted its tax figure to the county commissioners by that time it may not be permitted to do so at all.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Regardless of the possibility of a different result based upon the language of sec. 84 of the Bellingham charter, we believe that the budget ordinance was duly enacted on October 8th because of the mandatory effect of the state budget law.

            The budget ordinance having been duly enacted, we conclude that the city council may not amend or modify it except in some special manner provided by law. See AGO 53-55 No. 163.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General