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AGLO 1981 No. 22 - August 05, 1981
AGO Opinion Header Image
Ken Eikenberry | 1981-1992 | Attorney General of Washington

COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES ‑- FEES ‑- ALLOCATION AND CONTROL OF SERVICES AND ACTIVITIES FEES ‑- WESTERN WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY

(1) RCW 28B.15.045 applies to all funds generated through the imposition, by a college or university, of services and activities fees, as defined by RCW 28B.15.041.

(2) Monies in a college or university's housing and dining fund or account are not covered by the provisions of RCW 28B.15.045 unless, and to the extent that, the board of trustees or regents decides to fund the program, in whole or part, from "S & A" fees.

(3) All board of trustees' decisions concerning the establishment and funding of programs supported by services and activities fees must be made in compliance with the process established by RCW 28B.15.045, regardless of whether the board decision is an initial approval of budget levels for "S & A" fee funded programs or, on the other hand, is a subsequent modification thereof during any applicable budget period.

(4) To the extent that any institutional budget officer proposes the modification of any board-approved budget for services and activities fee expenditures, such a proposal must be considered according to the procedural requirements of RCW 28B.15.045 and, in that case, a proposal for modification of a board-approved "S & A" fees expenditure must be transmitted to the services and activities fee committee for its initial consideration.

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

                                                                  August 5, 1981

Honorable Eugene A. Prince
St. Rep., 9th District
Box 69
Thornton, WA 99176                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1981 No. 22

Dear Representative Prince:

            By letter previously acknowledged, you requested our opinion on the following four questions arising out of a matter involving Western Washington University:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "(1) What monies of the university are subject to the requirements of RCW 28B.15.045, which relates to the authority for initial input concerning the expenditure of services and activities fees by a student body committee composed for that purpose?

            "(2) Are any monies in Western's housing and dining fund account subject to the provisions of RCW 28B.15.045?

            "(3) Is RCW 28B.15.045 applicable to all budget decisions pertaining to student services and activities fees, or is it restricted to only the initial determination and budget process concerning the use of such services and activities fees?

            "(4) Since Western's housing and dining fund contains an allocation of services and activities fees as well as other monies, is there any state requirement mandating that Western provide public documentation and information on a regular basis to the S&A Fee Committee concerning the use and status of the services and activities fees position [sic] of these monies?"

            We answer your questions in the manner set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Question (1):

            Your first question involves the scope of RCW 28B.15.045 which codifies § 2, chapter 80, Laws of 1980 and reads, in full, as follows:

            "The boards of trustees and the boards of regents of the respective institutions of higher education shall adopt guidelines governing the establishment and funding of programs supported by services and activities fees.  Such guidelines shall spell  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] out procedures for budgeting and expending services and activities fee revenue.  Any such guidelines shall be consistent with the following provisions:

            "(1) Initial responsibility for proposing program priorities and budget levels for that portion of program budgets that derive from services and activities fees shall reside with a services and activities fee committee, on which students shall hold at least a majority of the voting memberships, such student members to be recommended by the student government association or its equivalent.  The governing board shall insure that the services and activities fee committee provides an opportunity for all viewpoints to be heard during its consideration of the funding of student programs and activities.

            "(2) The services and activities fee committee shall evaluate existing and proposed programs and submit budget recommendations for the expenditure of those services and activities fees to the college or university administration.

            "(3) The college or university administration shall review and publish a written response to the services and activities fee committee recommendations.  This response shall outline areas of difference between the committee recommendations and the administration's proposed budget recommendations.

            "(4) The college or university administration, at the time it submits its proposed budget recommendations for the expenditure of services and activities fees to the governing board, shall also transmit a copy of the services and activities fee committee  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] recommendations along with any supporting documentation originally provided by the committee and a copy of the administration's response to the committee recommendations.  Before adoption of the final budget the governing board shall address areas of difference between the committee recommendations and the administration's budget recommendations presented for adoption by the board.  A student representative of the services and activities fee committee shall be given the opportunity to reasonably address the governing board concerning any such differences.

            "(5) Services and activities fees and revenues generated by programs and activities funded by such fees shall be deposited and expended through the office of the chief fiscal officer of the institution.

            "(6) Services and activities fees and revenues generated by programs and activities funded by such fees shall be subject to the applicable policies, regulations, and procedures of the institution and the budget and accounting act, chapter 43.88 RCW.

            "(7) All information pertaining to services and activities fees budgets shall be made available to interested parties."1/

             The answer to your inquiry, quite clearly, is that RCW 28B.15.045 applies to all funds generated through the imposition, by a college or university, of services and activities fees.  And the term "services and activities fees" is expressly defined in RCW 28B.15.041,

            ". . . to mean fees, other than general tuition and operating fees, charged to all students registering at the state's community colleges, regional universities,  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] The Evergreen State College, and state universities. . . ."

            It is those fees (hereafter referred to as "S & A" fees) and only those fees, to which the above‑quoted requirements of RCW 28B.15.045 apply.

            Question (2):

            In posing this second question2/ you have advised us, as a factual matter, that the housing and dining operation at Western Washington University,

            ". . . is subsidized in part by approximately $28.50 in services and activities fees per student going into this account."

            Assuming the correctness of that factual representation, the answer to your question will be found in so much of RCW 28B.15.045(1),supra, as provides:

            "(1) Initial responsibility for proposing program priorities and budget levelsfor that portion of program budgets that derive from services and activities fees shall reside with a services and activities fee committee, . . ."  (Emphasis supplied)

            The answer, therefore, is that monies in a college or university's housing and dining fund or account are not covered by the provisions of RCW 28B.15.045,supra, unless, and to the extent that, the board of trustees or regents decides to fund the program, in whole or in part, from "S & A" fees.  But if, as you have here stated, the particular board has decided to allocate such fees to its housing and dining program, then, to that extent, the board's decision concerning that allocation must be made in compliance with the statute.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 6]]

            RCW 28B.15.045 does not, however, reach housing or dining programs and budgets in any overall sense.  It does not give the services and activities fee committee any responsibility over housing or dining budgets except for the budgetary decisions to allocate a portion of the college or university's "S & A" fees to that program.

            Question (3):

            This question asks whether RCW 28B.15.045, supra, applies only to the initial budget process and determination concerning an institution's use of estimated "S & A" fees or, instead, to all institution budget decisions pertaining to the use of such fees.  Our answer to this question is that all board of trustees' decisions concerning the establishment and funding of programs supported by "S & A" fees must be made in compliance with the process established by the subject statute.  Moreover, this answer applies regardless of whether the board's decision is an initial approval of budget levels for "S & A" fee funded programs or, on the other hand, is a subsequent modification thereof during any applicable budget period.

            We do not believe that RCW 28B.15.045 is at all ambiguous on this point.  But even if the enactment were deemed to be ambiguous, our reading of it is sustained by its legislative history.  As above noted, RCW 28B.15.045 was enacted as § 2, chapter 80, Laws of 1980.  And that act, in turn, originated as House Bill No. 1480.  It was sponsored, among others, by Representatives Burns and Grimm, and on page 220 of the House Journal we find the following reported dialogue between the two:

                                                            "POINT OF INQUIRY

            "Mr. Burns yielded to question by Mr. Grimm.

            "Mr. Grimm:  'Services and activities fees are commonly used to construct and maintain capital facilities such as student union buildings.  Are these projects encompassed within provisions of this bill?'

             [[Orig. Op. Page 7]]

            "Mr. Burns:  'Yes.  The bill specifically provides for student involvement in the budgeting process to the extent that services and activities fees are involved.  Where funding for capital projects is provided by S&A fees, they will be included as would other budget recommendations.  The procedures, of course, would not allow impairment of existing bond contracts.'

            "Mr. Grimm:  'This bill applies to the initial annual budgeting process.  Is it your intention that it also include amendments to a previously adopted services and activities budget?'

            "Mr. Burns:  'Yes, It is the intent that the procedures used in formulating the initial budget will also be adhered to if any subsequent changes are necessary.'"

            Question (4):

            Finally you have asked:

            "Since Western's housing and dining fund contains an allocation of services and activities fees as well as other monies, is there any state requirement mandating that Western provide public documentation and information on a regular basis to the S&A Fee Committee concerning the use and status of the services and activities fees position [sic] of these monies?"

            This question may be answered by reference to RCW 28B.15.045(7),supra, which provides that:

            "(7) All information pertaining to services and activities fees budgets shall be made available to interested parties."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 8]]

            The requirement of this subsection is that such information be made available to interested parties, including the services and activities fee committee, but not that the information be regularly transmitted to such interested parties.  To the extent that any institutional budget officer proposes the modification of any board approved budget for "S & A" fee expenditures, however, such a proposal must be considered according to the procedural requirements of RCW 28B.15.045,supra.  And, in that case, therefore, a proposal for a modification of a board approved "S & A" fees expenditure must be transmitted to the services and activities fee committee for its initial consideration.

            This completes our consideration of your questions.  We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

KENNETH O. EIKENBERRY
Attorney General

STUART C. ALLEN
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/This law was apparently passed in 1980 to resolve questions about the budgeting and expenditure of services and activities fees which have confronted the legislature ever since the "S & A" fees themselves were first authorized in 1971.

2/"Are any monies in Western's housing and dining fund account subject to the provisions of RCW 28B.15.045?"

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