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Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1956 No. 261 - May 3 1956
Attorney General Don Eastvold


School districts have no authority to acquire land outside the district for school building sites.

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                                                                    May 3, 1956 

Honorable Pearl A. Wanamaker
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Old Capitol Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 261

 Attention:  Mr. G. W. Van Horn

Dear Mrs. Wanamaker:

             In your letter of April 19, 1956, you requested our opinion on the following question:

             May a school district acquire for use as a school building site a tract of land located in another district?

             It is our opinion that boards of school district directors lack authority to acquire land outside the territorial limits of the district for this purpose.


             We understand that the Texas Company is interested in acquiring the school site of the Fidalgo school district in order to construct an oil refinery.  You indicate that the Fidalgo school district is desirous of obtaining a school site within the adjoining Anacortes  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] school district.  It appears that the Texas Company is agreeable to supplying the Fidalgo district with a suitable new site within the Anacortes district.  It is then contemplated that the Fidalgo district would propose a bond issue to finance construction of a new elementary school.  The next step in the plan is to propose to consolidate the Fidalgo and Anacortes school districts.  If this proposal is approved it is then planned to submit to the voters of the new district a proposal to construct a school on the site deeded to the Fidalgo school district.

             The defect in the entire plan is that in our opinion the Fidalgo school district lacks authority to acquire land outside the district for a school site.

             37 Am.Jur. 736, Municipal Corporations, § 122 states:

             "* * * the general rule is that municipal corporations have no extraterritorial powers, but their jurisdiction ends at the municipal boundaries and cannot, without specific legislative authority, extend beyond their geographical limits.  * * *"

             63 C.J.S. 502, Municipal Corporations, § 952 contains this statement:

             "It has been announced as a general rule that a municipal corporation has no power to purchase and hold land beyond its territorial limits, unless the power has been specially conferred on it by the legislature; and such power is not necessarily conferred by a general grant of power to purchase, hold, and convey such property, real and personal, as may be necessary for its public uses and purposes.  * * *"

             In our opinion there is an inherent or implied limitation on a school district in the exercise of powers delegated by the legislature that  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] such powers shall be exercised within the boundaries of the district.

             We recognize that cities and other districts are authorized to purchase property outside the municipality for water and power supply, sewage disposal and other purposes.  We also know that school districts may acquire land outside of their boundaries for parks and other recreational facilities.  Such powers are exercised, however, pursuant to express statutory authority.  We are unable to find any statutory authorization to school districts to acquire land outside of their boundaries for school sites.

             We know the authors of this proposal intend nothing more than to insure an adequate school in an acceptable site in the event the proposal to consolidate with the Anacortes district carries.  We are confident that this commendable objective can be achieved by a more direct approach than the one outlined above.

             Manifestly this is a perplexing problem of grave concern to the citizens of the Fidalgo district.  You may be assured that this office will be pleased to assist members of your staff and the school directors of the Fidalgo district in working out a substitute plan which will be acceptable.

             We hope the foregoing analysis will prove helpful.

 Very truly yours,
Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General