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Bob Ferguson

AGO 1955 No. 147 - Oct 19 1955
Attorney General Don Eastvold


Chapter 253, Laws of 1955, applies to all special levies imposed for school districts after the effective date of the act regardless of when the elections authorizing such special levies may have been held.

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                                                                October 19, 1955

Honorable Arthur L. Hawman
Prosecuting Attorney
Walla Walla County
Walla Walla, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 147


Dear Sir:

            You have requested our opinion as to whether chapter 253, Laws of 1955, applies to special levies imposed for school districts for bond redemption and other special purposes pursuant to approval by the voters of such districts prior to the effective date of the act.

            Our conclusion is that the act does apply to special levies for school districts imposed after the effective date of the act regardless of when the elections authorizing such special levies may have been held.


            You relate that the voters of a school district in Walla Walla County at an election held in 1954 approved a bond issue in excess of $900,000.00 for a new school building and that the millage approved by the voters is the correct amount for legal amortization of these bonds with interest during the life of the bonds.  The approved millage was derived by reference to the assessed valuation of the taxable property in the district at the time of the election.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            Section 3, chapter 253, Laws of 1955 provides:

            "All tax levies made by or for any school district shall be based on the assessed valuation of the 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."

            As you have noted this act provides that "All" levies made by or for school districts are to be based on the assessed valuation as determined pursuant to the act.  The act does not purport to apply selectively to certain levies only; it applies toall school levies, which of necessity include special levies.

            However, the fact that the assessed valuation as determined pursuant to chapter 253 is to be used for purposes of special as well as general levies need not result in imposition of taxes in amounts greater than needed to fulfill the purpose for which the special levy was authorized.  Actualimposition of a special levy is not effected by the electorate by voting on a proposition to allow such a levy.  The electorate's approval of such a proposition simply constitutes authorization to the governing body of the school district to implement a levy in excess of constitutional and statutory limitations.  See below quoted language of RCW 84.52.052.

            Under existing statutory machinery, no one other than school directors, and, in case of second and third class school districts, the county reviewing committee, can determine the actual amount of taxes to be imposed for school districts.  See RCW 28.59.120 and RCW 28.63.100 through 28.63.150.  This is true with respect to both general and special levies.  As to special levies, those officials

            "* * * may levy taxes at a rate in excess of the rate specified * * * when authorized so to do by the electors * * *" RCW 84.52.052.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            The election results only in authorization; the levy itself must be imposed later by the proper county officials within the limits of that authorization.

            The school directors of the district whose electors authorized the additional levies about which you have inquired, are thus authorized to levy annually a sufficient amount of taxes not to exceed the stated millage to meet the required annual payments of interest and principal.  The special election merely established a maximum limit for such levies.  It did not establish a minimum.  Consequently the directors should levy only the amount required to service the bonds.  The fact that more tax is available because the aggregate valuation of the district has been increased as a result of chapter 253, does not necessitate an increase in the actual levy.  An increase in the aggregate valuation could also have occurred, subsequent to the election, through the erection of extensive improvements upon real property situated within the district, such a s a large industrial plant.  SeeMalaga School District No. 115 v. Kinkade, 147 Wash. Dec. 462 [[47 Wn.2d 516]].  It is apparent, if the full millage authorized were to be taken in such a situation, that more taxes would be imposed than were intended.  The school directors are thus confronted with no different problem under chapter 253, than they would face under our hypothetical illustration.

            Prior to the effective date of chapter 105, Laws of 1955, proposals for excess levies could be submitted either in terms of mills or in terms of a specific dollar amount, AGO August 20, 1951, to Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney [[Opinion No. 51-53-104]].  Pursuant to chapter 105, however, such proposals must hereafter be submitted expressly in terms of a dollar amount together with an estimate of the millage required.  This act was passed to produce certainty as to the amount of tax authorized by special elections.  Under previous law, as we have above pointed out, there could be no certainty as to the amount of special tax which might be imposed pursuant to an authorization given by the electorate in adopting a proposition stated in terms of millage, because of the inevitable fluctuations in the aggregate assessed valuations of taxable property.

            For your attention we are enclosing copies of our recent opinion to the Lincoln County Prosecuting Attorney dated October 7, 1955; (AGO 55-57 No.  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] 144) to the Tax Commission, dated September 12, 1955; (AGO 55-57 No. 136) and of a letter to the State Auditor dated September 1, 1955, which discusses related aspects of chapter 253, Laws of 1955.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General