Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1952 No. 443 -
Attorney General Smith Troy


 School districts, irrigation districts and water districts may not make appropriations to aid a county planning commission.

 Public utility districts are vested with the same powers as county commissioners with respect to county planning commissions.

Budgets for the ensuing fiscal year, when once made, may not be amended to include expenditures by planning commissions.

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                                                               December 18, 1952 

Honorable Robert A. Hensel
Prosecuting Attorney
Douglas County
Waterville, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 443

 Dear Sir:

            This is in response to your letter of December 3, 1952, in which you state that in creating a planning commission Douglas County is confronted by the problem of obtaining funds for the commission.

             You request our opinion on each of the following questions:

             "1. Does the school district in which a planning council is going to operate and which will be very much help in planning the future growth in a rapidly expanding area have the right and power to set up money in a small amount, say under $500.00, toward paying for the expenses of the planning commission where there is a joint venture with the county, public utility district, water district and a city which is near by?

              [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "2. Can an irrigation district donate or appropriate funds to a county planning commission to help defray expenses?

             "3. May the county appropriate money to be used by the planning commission when it is not set up under the next year's budget, that is where the commissioners are willing; what loophole should be used to take the money from to help defray the expenses of a planning commission?

             "4. Can a water district do likewise?

             "5. Can the public utility district help defray the expenses either in a form of a donation or by carrying it on the books as labor?"

             It is the opinion of this office that questions Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 must be answered in the negative, and that question No. 5 is qualifiedly, as stated below, answered in the affirmative.


             Planning commissions are authorized and their powers are defined by RCW 35.63.010 to 35.63.020.

             The county school district is organized for purposes of supervision and administration of county schools, see RCW 28.01.030, and there is no provision under the statute for such district, separate and apart from the county itself, to appropriate money to aid in payment of the expenses of a county planning commission.

             In authorizing the organization of irrigation districts the legislature specifically denied to such districts the right to incur any debt or liability in excess of the express provisions of the Irrigation Act.  Nowhere in the statute is there any language, the necessary intendment of which would authorize the board of directors of an irrigation district to appropriate funds to aid in the defrayal of the expenses of a county planning commission.  See RCW 87.01.010 to 87.04.100.

              [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            The first Monday in October of each year the board of county commissioners shall meet for the purpose of a hearing on a preliminary budget for the ensuing fiscal year.  Upon the conclusion of that hearing the board of county commissioners fix and determine each item of the budget separately, and by resolution adopt the budget as so finally determined.  The board of county commissioners is then required to fix the amount of the levies necessary to raise the amount of the estimated expenditures as finally determined, and such estimates of expenditures, itemized and classified as required by statute, constitute the appropriation for the county for the ensuing fiscal year.  No expenditures, except in the event of certain emergencies, may be made in excess of the detailed budget appropriations.  See RCW 36.40.060 to 36.40.180.  The statute is clear that where an item is not within the budget for the next fiscal year the county commissioners may not appropriate money as an emergency expenditure to be used by the planning commission.

             In answer to question No. 4 it is patent that a water district could not do otherwise.

             The statute clearly answers question No. 5, whether a public utility district may aid in the defrayal of the expenses of a county planning commission.  RCW 54.04.120 grants to public utility districts the same powers as are vested by RCW 35.63.020 to 35.63.070 in a board of county commissioners with respect to planning commissions.

             The estimates of expenditures itemized and classified as finally adopted in detail by the board as the budget shall constitute the appropriations for the district for the ensuing fiscal year.  The board and other district officials shall be limited in the making of expenditures or the incurring of liabilities to the amount of such detailed appropriation items or classes, respectively.  By formal resolution of the board transfers or revisions within the general classes of "salaries and wages," "maintenance and operation" and "capital outlay" may be made.  See RCW 36.40.100.

 Very truly yours,
Attorney General