Washington State

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Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1954 No. 243 - Apr 21 1954
Attorney General Don Eastvold


Neither the county auditor nor the county assessor is required to calculate the millage which would be necessary to produce a sum budgeted by a fire protection district, but after the taxes for such districts have been levied, the assessor must then compute the levy in terms of millage.

Fire protection districts should submit their annual budgets to the county commissioners in terms of specific sums of money.

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                                                                   April 21, 1954

Honorable John C. Merkel
Prosecuting Attorney
Kitsap County
307 Dietz Building
Bremerton, Washington                                                                                           Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 243

Dear Sir:

            You have requested our opinion in answer to the following questions:

            1. Where a "junior" taxing district requests a levy of taxes for the purpose of raising a sum certain as set forth in the district's annual budget, is it the responsibility of the county auditor or the county assessor to calculate the millage necessary to produce the sum budgeted by such "junior" taxing district?

            2. In what form should the fire districts submit their budget requests?

            We conclude that neither the county auditor nor the county assessor is required to calculate the millage which would be necessary to produce a sum budgeted by a fire protection district.  However, after the district's taxes have been levied  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] by the county commissioners, the assessor is to compute the levy in terms of millage.

            We also conclude that fire protection districts should submit their budgets to the county commissioners in terms of specific sums of money.


            You relate that a number of fire protection districts in your county made requests "for a mill levy in 1954," and that the county auditor estimated that a lower mill levy would produce the budgeted income required by the districts.  However, this lower millage, after being levied by the county commissioners, proved insufficient to produce the income requested.  This occurred because certain state forestry fire protected lands were excluded from the total taxable valuation of several districts after the auditor's estimate.  Consequently, some of the districts are receiving less money than they would have received had their original millage requests been submitted to and levied by the commissioners.

            There is no statutory requirement that either the county auditor or county assessor calculate a millage which would produce a sum budgeted by a fire protection district.  Of course, either of these officials, or anyone for that matter, could voluntarily calculate the approximate millage which a suggested budget represented.  In fact we understand that this procedure is frequently, if not usually, followed to assist taxing officials in the preparation of their various budgets.  However, after the commissionerslevy the tax for the districts, RCW 84.52.030, and certify the levies to the assessor, RCW 84.52.070, the latter is thereupon directed to calculate the various levies for each district in terms of millage, RCW 84.52.010.  This calculation, requiredafter the levy, is to assure that permissible millage limits are not exceeded.

            In answer to your second question, fire protection districts must submit their budgets in the form of specific sums to the county commissioners.  RCW 52.16.030 states that:

            "* * * the secretary [to the board of fire commissioners] shall prepare a budget of the requirements of each district fund, and certify and deliver it to the county commissioners in ample time for them to make tax levies for district purposes."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            The prepared budget is to be certified to the clerk of the board of county commissioners, RCW 84.52.020.  A budget is

            "* * * a financial statement of the estimated revenues and expenditures of a country [state or city government or quasi-public body] for a definite period of time."  Webster's New Int'l. Dictionary (2nd Ed.)

            Thus, RCW 52.16.030 requires the districts to certify to the commissioners a financial statement of estimated revenues and expenditures.  After the budget is certified to the commissioners, they are directed to

            "* * * make the required levies for [fire protection] district purposes against the real and personal property in the district * * *."  RCW 52.16.040.

            If the district's budget were submitted to the commissioners in terms of millage, the commissioners would be put to the task of translating the mills into specific sums, for they must levy taxes in specific amounts, RCW 84.52.010.

            While RCW 52.16.130 and 52.16.140 (§§ 8 and 9, chapter 24, Laws of 1951 2nd Ex. Sess.) authorize boards of fire commissioners to levy ad valorem taxes, we do not believe the legislature thereby intended to extend taxing autonomy to such districts.  Section 2 of chapter 24, Laws of 1951 2nd Ex. Sess., states that sections 8 and 9 of that chapter

            "* * * are hereby added to chapter 52.16 RCW" (Emphasis supplied)

            At the time of this enactment, chapter 52.16 RCW included RCW 52.16.030 and 52.16.040, parts of which have been above quoted.  As noticed, those sections leave to the county commissioners the function of levying fire protection district taxes.  Thus RCW 52.16.130 and 52.16.140 merely establish millage limits for fire district levies.  The additional millage permitted by RCW 52.16.140 may be obtained when a district budget exceeds the millage limit of RCW 52.16.130 if the conditions required by RCW 52.16.140 are present.  In no case, however, should a greater sum be levied by the county commissioners than required to meet the district's budget, even though the total tax millage against property  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] within the district does not reach the 40 mill limit.

            We trust that the above satisfactorily answers your questions and proves to be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General