Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1952 No. 219 -
Attorney General Smith Troy


The school district may refund an overpayment to the federal government in any of three ways:  (1) By having the amount deducted from the next federal grant; (2) by budgeting the amount in the next year; or (3) by a budget extension.

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

                                                                 January 21, 1952

Honorable Robert S. Campbell, Jr.
Prosecuting Attorney
Grant County
Ephrata, Washington                                                                                                  Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 219

Dear Sir:

            Receipt is acknowledged of your letter of December 19, 1951, in which you request our opinion as to how a refund may be made by a school district to the federal government for an overpayment of money contributed from federal funds because of children of federal employees attending school in the district.

            It is our conclusion that this refund may be accomplished in any of the following ways:  (1) By having the federal government deduct an equal amount from the next payment to the school district; (2) by budgeting the amount in the next regular budget; or (3) by causing a budget extension to be made.


            The granting of funds by the federal government for the support of schools in areas where government activities have placed a heavy burden upon the school districts is comparatively new and our school statutes have made no provision for the refunding of overpayments.  Such payments are not taxes paid to the school district and consequently the rules governing repayment of taxes are  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] not applicable.  Since the money has been received and has actually been deposited with the school funds, a repayment to the government can be made only in the manner provided for an expenditure of the funds of the district.

            It is suggested that the simplest way of effecting this adjustment and the one which is used generally by agencies granting funds to the state is the deduction of the amount of the overpayment from the next payment due.  If, however, that is not feasible it will be necessary that the school budget law be complied with.  Section 9, Article II, chapter 4, Title III, chapter 97, Laws of 1909, as last amended by section 2, chapter 28, Laws of 1933 (Rem. Rev. Stat. Supp. § 4784) provides:

            "It shall be unlawful for any board of directors to contract indebtedness against its district in any one year in any sum or sums exceeding the aggregate of the amount set forth and approved in their final budget; and any board of directors violating the provision set forth in this section shall be personally liable for the full amount thus expended, or contracted for, and each director having a part in such unlawful expenditure shall immediately forfeit his office:  Provided, That no board of directors shall be prohibited from making expenditures for the payment of regular employees and for the necessary repairs, and upkeep of the school plant during the interim while the budget is being settled:  Provided, further, That when any emergency arises because of unforeseen conditions, the board of directors in consultation with the county superintendent of schools, and the appointed citizen members of the county reviewing committee shall determine the best means of meeting such emergency, and when the proposed plan and the indebtedness therefor have received the approval of the superintendent of public instruction it shall be put into effect.  Any county auditor issuing or causing to be issued a district warrant for any sum or sums not authorized in accordance with this section shall be personally liable therefor, and shall reimburse the district in double the amount of any such sum or sums.  An order for a warrant issued by any  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] local board of directors shall not be transferable, and the county auditor shall issue no warrant except to individuals or firms designated in original district orders."

            Under this section the school district may either provide in the budget for the next year for the amount of the refund or it may treat the matter as an emergency and extend its present budget in the manner prescribed in the section just quoted.  The latter alternative is the least desirable because of the fact that it is likely to disarrange the financial plans of the district for the year.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General