Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1957 No. 99 -
Attorney General John J. O'Connell


Publicly owned land within a library district is subject to the district tax levy beginning on the next assessment date following passage of title into private ownership, provided such land is not included within the corporate limits of a city on March 1 of the assessment year.

                                                                     - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                    July 17, 1957

Honorable Maloy Sensney
Prosecuting Attorney
Benton County
Fisk Building
Prosser, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 99

Dear Sir:

            You have requested an opinion of this office on a question concerning rural county library districts.  It appears that property in Benton County will be sold by the Federal government to private individuals and thus become taxable.  You ask whether this property will then be subject to the levy of the library district when the individuals who are acquiring the property will be living within the proposed city limits of Richland.

            We conclude that the property would be taxable for rural county library district purposes beginning on the next assessment date following the passage of title if they are not included within the boundaries of a city on March 1 of that year; but when the lands become part of a city they will be removed from the district and no longer be subject to the district levy.


            Section 1, chapter 122, Laws of 1937, is not codified in RCW.  This act provides:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "For the purpose of taxation all real and personal property in the state shall be listed and assessed with reference to its value and ownership on the first day of January at 12 o'clock meridian in the year in which it is assessed."

            In an opinion of this office to the Prosecuting Attorney of Skagit County dated April 18, 1949, the question was whether this law was impliedly repealed by RCW 84.40.020.  It was held that it was not so repealed and should be given effect.  The opinion also concluded that under the 1937 act, land in public ownership on January 1, the assessment date, cannot be assessed for that year, and not until the first assessment date following the passage of title into private ownership.

            Any lands which enter private ownership and which are at that time within the corporate limits of the City of Richland cannot be a part of a rural county library district and are not subject to a levy by that district.  A reading of chapter 27.12 RCW discloses that only territory outside of incorporated cities and towns may be included within a library district.  Furthermore, in a prior opinion of this office, OAG No. 49-51-121 [[Opinion No. 49-51-121 to Maloy Sensney, Prosecuting Attorney, Benton County on September 8, 1949]], it prior opinion of this office, OAG No. 49-51-121, it was was stated that when areas within an inter-county [[intercounty]]library district are annexed to a city they cease to be a part of that district.

            There has been, of course, no tax levy made upon this land because of its exempt ownership.  However, after the government sells the property it may become subject to a tax levied for the library district if at the time title passes it is not within the corporate limits of a city.  As indicated, when the property becomes privately owned it will be assessed on the first following assessment date and for the purposes of the district levy the boundaries of a taxing district are fixed as of March 1 of the year in which the levy is made.  RCW 84.08.160 reads in part:

            "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  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] for any taxing district whose boundaries were not duly established on the first day of March of such year.  * * *"

            Under the provisions of this statute if property is in private ownership on the assessment date and is incorporated within a city before March 1, it will not be subject to the rural county library district levy.  However, if it is so incorporated after March 1 the library district levy would be imposed upon it for that year.

            We are enclosing for your convenience copies of the aforementioned opinions.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General