Board of County Com'rs of Albany County v. White

Decision Date10 February 1959
Docket NumberNo. 2856,2856
Citation335 P.2d 433,79 Wyo. 420
PartiesBOARD OF THE COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF THE COUNTY OF ALBANY, and James D. Gay, individually and as County Commissioner, George W. Dodge, individually and as County Commissioner, and Ralph E. Buescher, individually and as County Commissioner, Appellants (Defendants below), v. Bryan WHITE, Ray Bottom, S. W. Vogel, Noel Hall, Arthur McKechnie, Jr., and William W. Whitney, Appellees (Plaintiffs below).
CourtWyoming Supreme Court

Lynn Rees, County and Pros. Atty. of Albany County, Laramie, for appellants.

Ellery, Gray & Hickey, Cheyenne, for appellees.


District Judge SHELDON delivered the opinion of the court.

This is an appeal from a judgment of the district court permanently enjoining defendants from entering into any contract or contracts for the sale of proposed recreational facilities bonds or from issuing bonds for the purpose of raising funds for recreational facilities.

A bond election was called and held in Albany County in accordance with the provisions of Ch. 28, Art. 2, W.C.S.1945 (1957 Cum.Pocket Supp.). The question submitted to the voters as set forth in the official ballot was as follows:

'Albany County, Wyoming

'Recreational Facilities Bond Election

Held August 21, 1956

'Official Ballot

'(Instructions to the voter)

'The Elector shall prepare his ballot by marking a cross (x) in the square opposite the words which express his vote.

"Shall the Board of County Commissioners of Albany County, Wyoming, be authorized to issue coupon bonds of said County [in] the principal amount of $250,000.00 bearing interest at a rate not exceeding 4% per annum, payable semi-annually, said bonds to be due and payable serially within 10 years after their date in amounts which will require substantially equal annual tax levies for principal and interest during the period, for the purpose of constructing and equipping a public building and acquiring, improving and developing pleasure grounds and recreational facilities for the use of the inhabitants of said County?'


"For recreational facilities

bonds [ ]


"Against recreational facilities

bonds [ ]


A majority of both property owners and nonproperty owners voting at said election voted for said bonds. The regularity of the procedure for holding a bond election is not questioned.

The defendants rely upon the provisions of Ch. 26, Art. 8, W.C.S.1945, as amended by Ch. 150, S.L. of Wyoming, 1951, for their authority to issue said bonds, which provide in part as follows:

'26-801. The Board of County Commissioners * * * is authorized and empowered * * * to acquire lands and other property for the purposes of fair grounds, airports, parks and pleasure grounds; to maintain, improve and develop and to construct, maintain and operate a public auditorium, athletic fields, civic center or other community building * * *.

'26-802. For the purposes of this Act, the Board of County Commissioners may levy taxes, issue bonds or incur indebtedness in like manner as is or may be authorized by law for other county purposes.

'County Fair Fund

'(A). The taxes authorized by Section 26-802 of this Act shall be levied and collected, at the same time in the same manner as other county taxes of such county are levied and collected, and the whole amount of such taxes so collected, together with any and all other monies received from the sale of bonds, donations or other sources for such purpose, shall be set aside and shall be designated the County Fair Fund, which fund shall be expended only by the authority and in the manner as hereinafter provided.'

The judgment in this case recites that a permanent injunction should issue for the following reasons:

'1. That the Chapter 150 of the 'Session Laws of Wyoming for 1951' does not authorize on its face the issuance of bonds and a levy of taxes for the payment of such bonds and the interest thereon and such bonds are therefore illegal and void, for the reason that the said Chapter 150 does not, by reference or otherwise, fix or set out the terms, conditions and execution of bonds, payment, interest rate, and sale price as is required by Article Fifteen (15), Section Thirteen (13) of the Constitution of the State of Wyoming.'

The reason for this legal construction is not apparent to this court. Art. 15, § 13, of the Constitution of Wyoming provides:

'No tax shall be levied, except in pursuance of law, and every law imposing a tax shall state distinctly the object of the same, to which only it shall be applied.'

Ch. 150, S.L. of Wyoming, 1951, aforesaid expressly and in plain and unambiguous language authorized the county commissioners to 'levy taxes, issue bonds or incur indebtedness' for the purpose or object stated and further provided for the moneys so received to be set aside in the County Fair Fund and expended only by the authority and in the manner therein provided.


Plaintiffs' counsel contend that the reference in the law to levying taxes and issuing bonds 'in like manner as is or may be authorized by law for other county purposes' is too indefinite and uncertain to determine the legislative intent and therefore no tax can be levied 'in pursuance of law' as required by the constitutional provision aforesaid. Their argument is based on the contention that the laws of this State provide four methods for issuing bonds for county purposes as set forth in Ch. 28, W.C.S.1945, to wit: Art. 2 pertaining to court houses and jails and roads, highways, bridges, viaducts and subway construction and improvement bonds; Art. 3 pertaining to bonds for funding or refunding any county indebtedness at a lower rate of interest; Art. 4 pertaining to refunding coupon bonds to be issued to redeem previous bonds at maturity when no funds are otherwise available; and Art. 5 pertaining to highway viaducts or subway bonds; that these provisions for issuing such bonds vary considerably in material respects, particularly with reference to the maturity dates and redemption features of the respective bond issues authorized, and in the absence of a designation by reference to a particular one of the methods for issuing bonds, the statute in question is left without necessary provision for terms, payment, interest rate, sale price and conditions for the execution of the bonds.

We know of no legal requirement that a law delegating authority from the State to counties to issue bonds must necessarily provide for the terms, conditions, payment, interest rate or sale price of the bonds. Counsel have cited no authorities in support of their contention in this regard and we have been unable to find any. To the contrary, a review of the text writings on the general subject of public securities and obligations leads to an opposite conclusion. Constitutional and general statutory provisions relating to public indebtedness are usually restrictive in character, designed to limit the powers of the State in its inherent power as a sovereignty to make contracts with reference to its credit. In the absence of such restriction, the power to bond would be unlimited and such unlimited authority could be delegated to the subdivision of the State. The evils which resulted from the frequent grant by many of the state legislatures of such unlimited powers to political subdivisions have led the people in most states to adopt various constitutional limitations safeguarding and restricting the issuance of bonds. Such constitutional provisions are self-executing and mandatory and require no supplemental legislation to make them effective. Likewise additional limitations may be enacted by the legislature and all such restrictions or requirements must be strictly complied with. See 43 Am.Jur. Public Securities and Obligations § 16, p. 282, § 21, p. 287 and § 23, p. 289.

In this case the statutory delegation of bonding authority to the board of county commissioners carries with it the requirement that the bonds be issued 'in like manner as is or may be authorized by law for other county purposes.' Is this requirement so general or ambiguous that it cannot be complied with in view of the four statutory procedures in effect relating to bond issues for county purposes? We think not. The provisions of Art. 3 and Art. 4, supra, pertaining to redemption bonds, are obviously not applicable to the proposed bond issue in this case. Strict compliance by the defendants with the provisions of either Art. 2 or Art. 5, supra, we think, will meet the legislative requirement that the bonds be issued in like manner as is or may be authorized by law for other county purposes. The court, in construing the language of this requirement, must assume that when the legislature amended and re-enacted § 26-802, W.C.S.1945, by Ch. 150, S.L. of Syoming, 1951, it did so with full knowledge of the existing condition of the law with reference to issuing bonds for county purposes. See Civic Ass'n of Wyoming v. Railway Motor Fuels, 57 Wyo. 213, 116 P.2d 236.

In the absence of a reference to a particular bonding procedure, the legislature intended that the board of county commissioners should have the right and option to select and follow either of the statutory requirements then in effect and otherwise applicable to the proposed bond issue.

An examination of the provisions of Art. 2 and Art. 5, supra, discloses no material variance between them which renders the foregoing statutory construction inoperative. In fact, many requirements in both statutes are couched in identical language. Both provide that the board of county commissioners shall cause to be levied annually upon all taxable property in the county, in addition to other authorized taxes, a tax in a sum sufficient to pay the interest on bonds as the same becomes due and to redeem the bonds upon maturity, said tax to be levied...

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