Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1965 No. 5 -
Attorney General John J. O'Connell


The voters in a second class school district must authorize the construction of any school but need not approve the financing thereof where the cost is to be paid from funds received under Public Law 815 or chapter 54.36 RCW.

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                                                                 January 19, 1965

Honorable James P. McNally
Prosecuting Attorney
Pend Oreille County
Ione, Washington

                                                                                                                  Cite as:  AGO 65-66 No. 5

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you have requested an opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            Is a vote of the electorate of a second class school district required prior to the expenditure from the building fund of funds received under P.L. 815, or chapter 54.36 RCW?

            We answer your question in the negative.


            The legislature has clearly limited school district expenditures to those budgeted.  RCW 28.58.130 provides in part:

            "It shall be unlawful for any board of directors to contract indebtedness against its district in any one year in any sum in excess of the aggregate amount set forth and approved in its final budget. . . ."

            In light of the above‑noted statute, this office has on several occasions noted that school districts may only expend funds as provided in their budget.  See our letter  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] of June 4, 1963, to your office, and opinions cited therein.  However, beyond budgetary requirements, and assuming the purpose of the expenditure is proper, there are no statutes or rules of law which require a vote of the peopleto expend funds of any nature.  In fact, the above‑noted statute was specifically amended to delete the requirement of a "vote of the electorate" by the 1933 legislature.

            This is not to say, however, that a school district need not get a vote of the electorate for the general authority to build a schoolhouse.  RCW 28.63.181 provides in part that the board of directors of a second class school district is empowered to ". . . build schoolhouses and teachers' cottages when directedby a vote of the district to do so. . . ." (Emphasis supplied.)

            Thus, the character of the funds, whether they be raised by bonds, excess levies, P.L. 815 donations, federal forest funds, or funds of any other character, has no effect on the proposition that a vote of the electorate is required in order to construct a school building.  See, AGO 45-46 p. 326 [[1945-46 OAG 326 to Prosecuting Attorney, Jefferson County on September 4, 1945]]and the informal opinion of this office written 45-46 p. 326 and the informal opinion of this office written to the Honorable R. A. Hensel, Prosecuting Attorney, Douglas County, dated April 17, 1964.  Copies of these opinions are enclosed for your convenience.

            You will note that in AGO 45-46 p. 326 the money had been obtained without a vote of the people, consisting of federal forest funds, that portion of the 14 mills which may be put into the building fund, and state money.  After noting these factors and the applicable law, the writer stated:

            ". . . authority must be secured, by vote of the electors of the district, to build a schoolhouse, or other necessary school building, including a gymnasium."

            In the opinion to R. A. Hensel, supra, we were concerned with P.U.D. funds.  It was noted in conclusion that:

            ". . . therefore, a second class district must be directed by a vote of  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] the district, either under RCW 28.58.370 or RCW 28.63.181, in order to build or make additions to a schoolhouse."

            For purposes of clarity it should be noted that the following is the general pattern of procedure whenever the construction of schools is under consideration in a second class school district:

            1. A vote of the district is necessary to raise funds by excess levy or by the issuance of bonds payable from excess levies.  See, RCW 39.36.020, 28.51.010-28.51.030, 84.52.050, and 28.56.050.  See, also, Article VII, § 2, Amendment 17, Washington State Constitution.  This step is normally required for the reason that very few districts, unlike your situation, have sufficient money available to them for building purposes with a vote of the people.

            2. A vote of the district is required either under RCW 28.58.370 or RCW 28.63.181, directing the district to build a schoolhouse.  See, RCW 28.63.181,supra.  Further, a vote to raise funds is not considered a vote to construct a building and a vote to build is not considered a vote to raise funds.  However, these two steps may be, and usually are, combined into one election.

            3. The budgeting of the funds raised by the district is required whether they be raised by vote of the electorate or otherwise.

            The answer to your question may appear to be unnecessarily long, but we have set out the foregoing in order that it may be clearly understood that although a vote of the electorate is never required to expend funds on hand, a vote may be required to raise said funds and that a vote is always required in a second class district to build a schoolhouse, regardless of the character of the funds on hand.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General