Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGLO 1976 No. 2 -
Attorney General Slade Gorton


When territory is transferred from one school district to another and a school building is situated within such territory, the question of whether, and to what extent, compensation must be paid by the receiving district will be dependent upon the decision of the appropriate county committee on school district reorganization under RCW 28A.57.050(2).

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

                                                                  January 5, 1976

Honorable John D. Jones
State Senator, 48th District
18 Bridlewood Circle
Kirkland, Washington 98033                                                                                                                 Cite as:  AGLO 1976 No. 2

Dear Senator Jones:

            By recent letter you have described a proposed transfer of certain territory to King County School District No. 405 (Bellevue) from King County School District No. 414 (Lake Washington).  You have indicated that a certain existing elementary school building and campus is physically situated within the territory thus to be transferred and have asked whether, in our opinion, the Lake Washington School District is legally entitled to receive from the Bellevue School District a monetary amount equal to the value of this facility as a part of the territorial transfer proceedings.

            We answer this question in the manner set forth in our analysis.


            The transfer of territory from one existing public school district to another is provided for by RCW 28A.57.180 as follows:

            "For the purpose of transferring territory from one school district to another district, a petition in writing may be presented to the educational service district superintendent, as secretary of the county committee, signed by a majority of the registered voters residing in the territory proposed to be transferred, or by the board of directors of one of the districts affected by a proposed transfer of territory if there is no registered voter resident in the territory, which petition shall state the name and number of each district affected, describe the boundaries of the territory proposed to be transferred and state the reasons for desiring the change and the number of children of school age, if any,  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] residing in the territory:  Provided, That the educational service district superintendent, without being petitioned to do so, may present to the county committee a proposal for the transfer from one school district to another of any territory in which no children of school age reside:  Provided further, That the educational service district superintendent shall not complete any transfer of territory pursuant to the provisions of this section which involves ten percent or more of the common school student population of the entire district from which such transfer is proposed, unless he has first called and held a special election of the voters of the entire school district from which such transfer of territory is proposed for the purpose of affording said voters an opportunity to approve or reject such proposed transfer, and has obtained approval of the proposed transfer by a majority of those registered voters voting in said election; and if such proposed transfer is disapproved, the state board of education shall determine whether or not said district is meeting or capable of meeting minimum standards of education as set up by the state board.  If the board decides in the negative, the superintendent of public instruction may thereupon withhold from such district, in whole or in part, state contributed funds."

            We do not find, however, in this or any other statute pertaining to the subject any provision under which the school district from which the territory in question is transferred may be said to be legally entitled in all cases to receive compensation from the receiving district for any physical school facilities which may be situated on or within the transferred territory.1/   What wedo find, in RCW 28A.57.050(2), is a statutory authorization and direction to the appropriate county committee on school district reorganization:2/

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "To make an equitable adjustment of the property and other assets and of the liabilities, including bonded indebtedness, as to the old school districts and the new district or districts, if any, involved in or affected by a proposed change in the organization and extent of the school districts; . . ."

            Under this statute it is entirely possible that the county committee which initially handled the situation you have described in your lettercould have directed some payment to be made by the Bellevue School District to the Lake Washington School District in exchange for a transfer of title to the physical facilities involved from the latter to the former ‑ inasmuch as those facilities will no longer be a part of the Lake Washington School District if the territorial transfer is approved.  Most certainly a school building located in the territory pending transfer is an "asset" contemplated by RCW 28A.57.050(2) which the county committee was required to consider in terms of whether or not ownership should be transferred to the Bellevue district and, if so, whether or not the Lake Washington district is entitled to any compensation therefor.  But this, in the final analysis, was a question for that agency first to have decided on the basis of all of the facts involved ‑ subject to review by the State Board of Education pursuant to the procedures set forth in RCW 28A.57.060.  It is our understanding that this review process is currently under way and that an appeal to the King County Superior Court, as further provided for by RCW 28A.57.120, could follow.  Thus, obviously, it would not be proper for us to say any more then what we have thus far at the present time.

            It is hoped that the foregoing will, nevertheless, be of some assistance to you in obtaining an understanding of the legal questions involved.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Deputy Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/Nor is there any constitutional requirement that such compensation be paid.  SeeMoses Lake Dist. v. Big Bend Coll., 81 Wn.2d 551, 503 P.2d 86 (1972) andWheeler School Dist. v. Hawley, 18 Wn.2d 37, 137 P.2d 1010 (1943), together with other authorities cited therein.

2/The "county committee" referred to in RCW 28A.57.180, supra; see, RCW 28A.58.030 ‑ 28A.58.040.