New Legislation Subjects City Assumption of Water-Sewer District to Possible Referendum
Under chapter 35.13A RCW, a city council may, by resolution or ordinance, assume jurisdiction of (basically, take over) all or part of a water-sewer district, with the extent of that assumption of jurisdiction based on how much of the area or assessed value of the district lies within the city. Under ESSB 5048, legislation long sought by water-sewer districts, a city resolution or ordinance assuming jurisdiction over all or part of a water-sewer district will now be subject to a possible referendum by voters within that portion of the district to be assumed. (For a detailed discussion of the background of the statutory scheme for assumption of water-sewer districts and what this legislation does, see the Final Bill Report.) This bill is effective on July 24, 2015.
This legislation provides that, within 10 days of the passage of a resolution or ordinance assuming jurisdiction over all or part of a water-sewer district, a referendum petition to repeal the ordinance or resolution may be filed with the county auditor. Within 10 days of that filing, the county auditor must confer with the petitioner about the form and style of the petition and issue a petition identification number. The ballot title must be written by the city attorney. The petitioner must be notified of the identification number and ballot title within this 10-day period.
The petitioner has 45 days from this notification to gather signatures of at least 10% of the voters who live within the part of the water-sewer district to be assumed and who voted in the most recent general election. If the county auditor determines the petition to contain sufficient signatures, the referendum must be voted on at a general or special election within 120 days after the filing of the petition with the county auditor. The cost of the election is borne by the city.
The assumption resolution or ordinance is suspended from taking effect once the petition is filed, with that suspension terminating when either the petition is found insufficient or not timely filed or when the assumption resolution or ordinance is approved by the voters. Even if no referendum petition is filed, the assumption resolution or ordinance cannot take effect until 90 days, or more, after adoption.
The result of this legislation will be, of course, that the voters within water-sewer districts can have a say in whether all or part of a district can be taken over by a city within which the district, or part of a district, lies. Unfortunately, we don’t have any numbers on how often assumptions of all or part of a water-sewer district by a city occur. But there possibly now will be fewer. That can be good or bad, depending on your perspective.
Photo courtesy of Mason County PUD No. 1.
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