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Bob Ferguson

AGO 1955 No. 144 -
Attorney General Don Eastvold


Chapter 253, Laws of 1955, confers no authority on the county auditor to vary the amount budgeted by the directors of a school district which by action of the county commissioners will become the levy for that district.

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                                                                 October 7, 1955

Honorable Willard A. Zellmer
Prosecuting Attorney
Lincoln County
Davenport, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 144

Dear Sir:

            You have requested our opinion on a question arising from the following facts: A school district has budgeted $10,155 for the 1955-56 school year, which sum equals two mills of the county assessor's valuation of the taxable property in the district.  However, a levy equalling two mills against the equalized valuation returned by the state board of equalization under chapter 253, Laws of 1955 (the "Ryder Plan"), would produce an amount in excess of the amount budgeted by the district.  Your question is whether a two-mill levy may be applied to the county assessor's valuation in this case.

            In our opinion, the answer to your question is "no"; but under the correct procedure as outlined below the district's levy will not produce more than the amount budgeted.


            Section 3, chapter 253, Laws of 1955, provides that:

            "All tax levies made by or for any school district shall be based on the assessed valuation of the  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] taxable property within each respective school district, which assessed valuation shall be the value (1) placed upon said property by the county assessor as equalized by the county board of equalization, and by the tax commission in respect to property assessed by it pursuant to chapters 84.12 and 84.16 RCW, (2) and equalized at fifty percent of true and fair value in money by the state board of equalization."

            It is clear from this language that the original valuation made by the assessor cannot be used for school tax purposes.

            The difficulty stems from the fact that many school districts have treated their levies in terms of mills, rather than in terms of specific amounts of money as required by law, RCW 84.52.010, (see also § 1, chapter 105, Laws of 1955).  The school district budget for second or third class districts as adopted by the directors under RCW 28.63.100 and 28.63.110, and as reviewed by the reviewing committee under RCW 28.63.120, becomes the basis for the levy by the county commissioners for the district under RCW 28.63.150.  The levy, in terms of dollars, is then certified to the county assessor.  RCW 84.52.070.

            The county assessor then determines the rate per cent, or millage, necessary to raise the amount levied for the district under RCW 84.52.080.  Only at this time is the actual millage rate established, although the school directors and reviewing committee may, of course, calculate or estimate what millage will result from the budget they fix, in order to avoid the possibility of a reduction by the assessor when the levy is tested by him, against the constitutional and statutory limitations pursuant to RCW 82.52.010.  Such part of the levy which does not exceed those limitations is then extended on the tax rolls.  (By letter of September 1, 1955, we have advised the state auditor, that county assessors maycompute school taxes on the basis of valuations used for local tax purposes.  This simply requires a mathematical computation using the ratio between the value returned by the assessor and that as equalized by the state board of equalization.)

            The only effect of chapter 253 is that in many cases it will result in an increase in the assessed valuation of the taxable property within school districts  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] over the value placed thereon by the assessor; permitting the imposition of a larger amount of taxes by the district, if necessary, without violation of the constitutional and statutory millage limitations.

            We hope the foregoing analysis and discussion will prove to be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General