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AGO 1961 No. 34 - June 05, 1961
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

DISTRICTS ‑- SCHOOL ‑- APPROPRIATION FOR INCREASES IN TEACHERS' SALARIES

(1) The proviso in the appropriation bill (Engrossed S. B. 1) relating to salary increases for certificated classroom teaching personnel is not limited to merely raising the salary of "returning or recontracted teachers" but the board of directors may exercise discretion in determining the employees within the class described whose salaries are to be increased.

(2) The phrase "at the average rate" as used in the appropriation act, in so far as it relates to teachers' salary increases, must be determined on the basis of the average salary in individual districts during the school year 1960-61.

(3) The additional increase described in the proviso for the second year of the biennium 1962-63 is to be based upon a figure $283 above the 1960-61 average or $616 above the 1960-61 average.

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

                                                                    June 5, 1961

 

onorable Louis Bruno
State Superintendent of
Public Instruction
Old Capitol Building
Olympia, Washington

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 61-62 No. 34

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you requested an opinion of this office on several questions concerning the appropriation made by the 1961 legislature for increases in teachers' salaries.  Specifically you have asked:

            (1) Does the proviso in the appropriation bill relating to salary increases for certificated classroom teaching personnel apply only to "returning or recontracted teachers"?

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            (2) What does the phrase "at the average rate," as used in the proviso mean?

            (3) Is the additional increase prescribed in the proviso for the second year of the biennium (1962-63) to be based on a figure $283 above the 1960-61 average, or is it to be "calculated on whatever the 1961-62 average becomes"?

            We answer question (1) in the negative; and questions (2) and (3) in the manner set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            During its 1961 first extraordinary session, our legislature passed Engrossed Senate Bill No. 1, (as amended by the Free Conference Committee) which is the state's general appropriation act.  As a part of the appropriation made to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, we find the following pertinent provisions relating to the apportionment of state funds to local school districts:

            "Distribution to counties for school districts, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 141, Laws of 1945, and acts amendatory or supplementary thereto, $359,200,800 (being $7,000,000 from the current school fund and $352,200,800 from the general fund): . . .

            ". . . PROVIDED, That the apportionment on the educational unit basis shall be $2,541.77 for 1961-1962 and $2,852.57 for 1962-1963: . . .

            ". . . PROVIDED, That no part of this appropriation shall be distributed to any school district until it has certified to the superintendent of public instruction that all full time certificated employees are being paid not less than $4,200 per year;  PROVIDED, That none of these appropriations shall be used for salary increases or for special programs for superior teaching performance unless the contract of such teacher shall require not less than 185 days of actual service during each of 1961-1962 and 1962-1963, at least 180 days of which must be devoted exclusively to teaching and incidentally assigned  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] duties during school hours and the remaining time may, in the discretion of the district, be devoted to additional teaching, job training, curriculum development, research and planning, counseling, and other professional teacher's activities: . . .

            ". . . PROVIDED, That $25,289,305 of this appropriation is intended only for salary increases for certificated classroom teaching personnel at the average rate of $283 in 1961-1962 and $333 additional in 1962-1963. . . ."

            Although your three questions concern only the last proviso of the appropriation bill quoted, we deem it necessary for the purpose of this opinion to make reference to several other provisions of the bill in answering your questions and we therefore have set forth the other provisions for your information.

            Our supreme court has said that in interpreting a statute legislative intent is to be determined from reading the act itself, construing the provisions therein according to their ordinary meaning, and giving consideration to the purposes and objects sought to be accomplished by the legislative enactment.  State ex rel. State Emp. Retirement Bd. v. Yelle, 31 Wn. (2d) 87, 196 P. (2d) 646, 201 P. (2d) 172 (1948).  If the language of the statute is plain, clear and unambiguous, there is no room for construction.  Parkhurst v. Everett, 51 Wn. (2d) 292, 318 P. (2d) 327 (1957);In re Baker's Estate, 49 Wn. (2d) 609, 304 P. (2d) 1951 (1956).  See also AGO 57-58 No. 45 [[to Superintendent of Public Instruction on April 8, 1957]], AGO 57-58 No. 52 [[to Prosecuting Attorney, Pacific County on April 23, 1957]].

            From a reading of the above portion of the appropriation act relating to increases in teachers' salaries, we believe the overall intent of the legislature to be quite apparent.  Of the state funds to be made available to school districts in this state over the next biennium (July 1, 1961-June 30, 1963) $25,289,305 is earmarked or "intended" for salary increases.  In respect to the distribution of the funds, the legislature has specifically directed that out of the earmarked portion of the school appropriation, districts are to increase the salaries "for certificated classroom teaching personnel at the average rate of $283 in 1961-1962, and $333 additional in 1962-1963."

            This statement of overall or general legislative intent does not of course answer the specific questions which you have submitted.  Therefore, by applying the rules of statutory  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] construction which are applied by the courts in cases such as this, we will attempt to advise you as to our opinion on the questions asked.

            Question (1):

            Your first question is whether the proviso relating to the salary increases applies only to "returning or recontracted teachers."

            In so far as the answer to this question is concerned, we find no specific limitation or restriction upon the use of the funds made available to the local school districts (from the $25,289,305) other than in the direction that the funds be used to increase the salaries of certificated classroom teaching personnel.  We feel the board of directors of the school district, in the sound exercise of its discretion, may determine the employees within the class described that are entitled to a salary increase and the amount thereof, provided that salaries are increased "at the average rate of $283 in 1961-1962 and $333 in 1962-1963" from the state fund appropriated for this purpose.

            In our opinion the board of directors is not limited to merely raising the salaries of "returning or recontracted teachers" with the money allotted to it by the state.  Such a construction is not warranted from the language of the act, and, if adopted, most certainly would result in a considerable hardship when classroom teachers transfer between districts within this state.

            Question (2):

            By your second question you desire to know the meaning to be placed on the phrase "at the average rate" as used in the last proviso of the appropriation.  For convenience in reading, we will again set out the proviso in question:

            ". . . PROVIDED, That $25,289,305 of this appropriation is intended only for salary increases for certificated classroom teaching personnel at theaverage rate of $283 in 1961-1962 and $333 additional in 1962-1963."  (Emphasis supplied)

            There is no definition of the phrase "at the average rate" found in the act; therefore, the words are to be given their usual and  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] ordinary meaning.  Miller v. City of Pasco, 50 Wn. (2d) 229, 310 P. (2d) 863 (1957); Pacific Northwest Alloys v. State, 49 Wn. (2d) 702, 306 P. (2d) 197 (1957); 82 C.J.S. Statutes, § 329 (b), p. 639.  Furthermore, no statute should be construed so as to render any word superfluous, void or insignificant if such construction can be avoided.  SeeGroup Health Etc. v. King County Med. Soc., 39 Wn. (2d) 586, 237 P. (2d) 737 (1951).

            Considering the use of the word "average" by the legislature to modify the noun "rate" in the proviso, and giving that word its ordinary meaning, it is our opinion that the legislature did not intend that each certificated classroom teacher was necessarily to have his salary increased in the amount prescribed.  If such had been the intent of the legislature, language similar to that found in the 1957 appropriation relating to teachers' salaries could have been used to express such intent.  See AGO 57-58 No. 45; AGO 57-58 No. 52.  As previously stated, the only duty of the local board is to use its portion of the state funds made available to provide the salary increases at theaverage rate specifically prescribed.

            Of course, there is one further problem which must be resolved in order to completely answer this question and that is what figure is to be used as the basis for determining the "average" increases.  Is it the 1960-1961 average salary paid in the various school districts or is it the 1960-1961 statewide average of teachers' salaries?

            It is our opinion that the legislature intended that the salaries of the described class of teachers should be increased during the first year of the biennium at the average rate of $283 above the salaries paid in the district during the school year 1960-1961.  We have arrived at this conclusion by carefully examining the language of the appropriation bill hereinbefore set forth.  Since the state funds are made available to school districts (on the basis of the statutory formula prescribed) and the proviso in question provides for teacher salary increases at an average rate, it follows, we believe, that this average must be determined on the basis of the average salary in individual districts during the school year 1960-1961.  Most certainly there is nothing in the act which would warrant a different conclusion.

            Question (3):

            Your third question is whether the additional increase prescribed for the second year of the biennium (1961-1962) is to be based on a figure $283 above the 1960-1961 average, or is  [[Orig. Op. Page 6]] to be "calculated on whatever the 1961-1962 average becomes."

            As we understand it, the problem which here concerns you is that which would arise if a particular district were to grant an average rate salary increase for 1961-1962 in excess of the $283 increase provided for by the legislature in the above quoted appropriation bill.  Specifically you have asked, in terms of a sample case, what a particular district's obligation would be for 1962-1963 with regard to an additional average rate salary increase were the district to grant an average rate increase for 1961-1962not of $283 but of $500.

            From an examination of the appropriation bill it is quite apparent that the legislature has set aside $25,289,305 of the state funds to be made available to school districts during the next two years to be used only for increases in teachers' salaries.  The language concerning the increases we believe to be plain, clear and unambiguous and therefore not open to construction by this office.  The school districts must raise the salaries of certificated classroom teachers "at the average rate of $283" for the first year and "$333 additional" for the second year.  This is an express direction of the legislature which, in our opinion, was intended to insure that the average salary increase of the class of teachers described over the next two years would be $616.  We have been advised that if said funds are used as expressly directed, the entire $25,289,305 intended for salary increases will be exhausted.

            It is fundamental that an appropriation can only be expended in the manner provided for by the legislature.  The word "appropriation" has been defined as ". . . an authority of the legislature, given at the proper time, and in legal form to the proper officers, to apply a distinctly specified sum from a designated fund out of the treasury, in a given year, for a specified object or demand against the state. . . ."  42 Am.Jur. Public Funds, § 43, p. 747; see also, State ex rel. Public Company v. Lindsley, 3 Wash. 125, 127, 27 Pac. 1019 (1891).

            Consequently, it follows that only so much of the $25,289,305 specifically earmarked by the 1961 legislature for salary increases as is necessary to provide an average rate increase of $283 for 1961-1962 is to be expended during that year; the remainder of the appropriation being reserved for expenditure  [[Orig. Op. Page 7]] during 1962-1963 in order to provide an additional $333 average rate increase.

            Thus, any increase granted during 1961-1962 in excess of an average rate of $283 must be deemed to have been provided for out of some funds other than the particular district's share of the $25,289,305 specifically earmarked as aforesaid.  In the sample case which you have provided by way of illustration of your basic question, out of the $500 average rate increase granted during 1961-1962, $283 would be deemed to have been paid out of the specifically earmarked legislative appropriation, and the remainder, or $217, would be deemed to have come from some other source (either a portion of the remainder of the legislature's total $359,200,800 appropriation for school purposes, or out of local district tax revenues).  This additional amount must further be deemed to have been granted not because of a legislative command that it be granted, but because the local district, in budgeting for 1961-1962, found itself able to provide for the additional increases.  Nothing contained in the 1961 appropriation bill, supra, or elsewhere in the law would have required this additional 1961-1962 increase.

            Nor is there anything in the 1961 appropriation bill, supra, or elsewhere, which would require a district which might grant an average rate of increase for 1961-1962 in excess of $283 to continue paying the excess amount during 1962-1963.  However, the 1961 appropriation bill does compel the districts to grant, out of a specifically earmarked $25,289,305, an additional $333 average rate increase for 1962-1963.

            In other words, we are here concerned only with the district'sobligations arising out of the 1961 state appropriation act.  Thisobligation of each district is to grant an average salary increase at the average rate of $283 for 1961-1962 and an additional $333 increase for 1962-1963.  The proper expenditure of the earmarked appropriation over the two year period will insure that teachers' salaries in each district are raised at the average rate of $616.  What a particular district may elect to do over and above this obligation through the use of other funds has no bearing on this obligation.

            It may grant an additional average rate increase for 1961-1962out of other funds, and it may continue this additional increase in 1962-1963 if it so desires.  Or it may grant an additional increase for 1961-1962 out of other funds and then withdraw this additional increase for 1962-1963.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 8]]

            Consequently, in terms of obligation pursuant to the 1961 appropriation bill,supra, (and the appropriation therein of $25,289,305 specifically for an average rate salary increase of $283 for 1961-1962 and an additional $333 for 1962-1963), it follows that the additional $333 average rate increase for 1962-1963 is to be based upon a figure $283 above the 1960-1961 average (i.e., upon the average rate resulting from the required granting of an average rate increase of $283 in 1961-1962), and not upon "whatever the 1961-1962 average becomes."  Or, to state it another way, the district's obligation for the second year of the biennium would be $616 above the 1960-1961 average (i.e., $283 for the first year plus $333 the second year, equaling a $616 average rate increase over the two-year period).

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

ROBERT J. DORAN
Assistant Attorney General

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