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AGO 1963 No. 11 - February 18, 1963
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


DISTRICTS ‑- SCHOOL ‑- DIRECTORS ‑- WASHINGTON STATE SCHOOL DIRECTORS' ASSOCIATION ‑- DUES.

(1) When the Washington state school directors' association has established a schedule of dues for members of the association under RCW 28.58.360, it is the duty of each board of directors to make provision annually for the payment of such dues and to order such payment.

(2) If a district fails to pay dues in a particular year, it is the duty of the county auditor (pursuant to a written request of the executive committee of the association) to satisfy the district's obligation by the transfer of district funds, whether the delinquency be for current dues or for dues unpaid during previous years in which the proper schedule of dues was established.

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                                                                February 18, 1963

Honorable Elmer W. Stanley
Executive Secretary
Washington State School Directors' Association
201 Capitol Park Building
Olympia, Washington

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 63-64 No. 11

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged, you have requested the opinion of this office on two questions relative to the obligation of a school district in this state to pay annual dues to the Washington state school directors' association.  Your questions are as follows:

            "'Must the board of directors of a common school district in the State of Washington order the payment of annual dues in support of the Washington State School Directors' Association?'

            "'If a district does not pay its dues to the Washington State School Directors' Association, must the county auditor (if ordered by Resolution of the Association's Executive Committee) satisfy that obligation by expeditious transfer of district funds, whether for current dues or for dues unpaid during previous years?'"

            We answer both your questions in the affirmative.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The Washington state school directors' association is created by statute as an agency of the state of Washington, to carry out a specific public purpose, i.e., ". . . the coordination of programs and procedures pertaining to policy making and to control and management among the school districts of the state. . . ."  See, RCW 28.58.320; also AGO 61-62 No. 127, to the state auditor, May 3, 1962.  The membership of the association consists of the members of all boards of directors of the school districts in this state.  RCW 28.58.330.

            Concerning dues, RCW 28.58.360 provides in pertinent part as follows:

            "The school directors' association may establish a schedule of dues for members of the association. . . .  The board of directors of a school district shall make provision for payment out of the general fund of the district of the dues of association members resident in the district, which payment shall be made in the manner provided by law for the payment of other claims against the general fund of the district.  The dues for each school district shall be due and payable on the first day of January of each year, and if not paid by any district before the 31st day of December of any year the executive committee of the association may present a written request to the county auditor that such payment be made by him by transfer of funds from the general fund of the district.  Upon receipt of such request the county auditor shall make such transfer."

            It takes no involved process of statutory construction to arrive at the conclusions expressed above.  As to the first question, at least, the statute is clear and unambiguous.  RCW 28.58.360,supra, states a manifest legislative intention to regard the payment of the dues, once established, as a mandatory obligation of each school board.  It even states the time each year when the obligation falls due, and requires payment as for any claim against the district's general fund, requiring no notification to the district or any other affirmative step by the association in order to make the obligation mature.1/   The statute then goes even farther.  If the school board fails to take the initiative in meeting its own obligation, the statute places a mandatory duty on the county auditor to make payment by a simple transfer of funds from the general fund of the district, on the written request of the association's executive committee.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            As to your second question, apparently the difficulty in obtaining payment at this time comes from two objections: (1) That payment cannot be made beyond the budgetary year of the school district; and (2) that current dues for a calendar year cannot be made until the expiration of the calendar year.

            These objections, which seem to be mutually contradictory, are without merit.  In the first place, the statute making the payment of these dues obligatory requires payment on a calendar year basis, rather than on a period corresponding with a school's fiscal year ending June 30.  Furthermore, there is nothing in the budget law itself forbidding payment of this type of past-due obligation.  RCW 28.58.130 provides in pertinent part as follows:

            "It shall be unlawful for any board of directors to contract indebtedness against its district in any one year in any sum in excess of the aggregate amount set forth and approved in its final budget. . . ."

            As to first class districts, RCW 28.59.130 further provides as follows:

            "The budget as finally adopted shall constitute the appropriations of the district for the ensuing fiscal year and the board of directors shall be limited in the making of expenditures and the incurring of liabilities to the grand total of such appropriations.  The board of directors shall make no expenditures nor incur any liability for any purpose not provided for in the budget.  Expenditures made, liabilities incurred or warrants issued in excess of the appropriations shall not be a liability of the district except for emergencies."

            It is to be noted that RCW 28.58.130, supra, (applicable to all districts) has reference only to contractual obligations, and RCW 28.59.130, supra (applicable to first class districts), is a prohibition only on the conduct of the board of directors of the district in creating obligations.  The purpose of such budget laws is stated in 2 Dillon, Municipal Corporations, 5th ed., § 790, as follows:

            ". . . These requirements are imposed for the purpose of protecting the treasury of the municipality against the incurring of excessive liabilities or liabilities for which no provision is made.  They are mandatory; and if a contract  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] is entered into without a compliance with the statutory requirements, it is void, and there can be no recovery thereon."

            However, the present liability for dues is not a contractual obligation, nor is it a discretionary expense which the board of directors may or may not incur as it chooses.  Rather, it is a mandatory expense of the district, not incurred by the board of directors at all, but imposed by law each year on a recurring fixed date.

            It seems a fair and accurate statement that, as a general rule, debt limitation provisions and budget restrictions are both concerned with contractual obligations; and as a general rule they do not prevent payment of obligations made mandatory by law.  See,State ex rel. Spinney v. Hoss, 178 Wash. 394, 35 P. (2d) 10 (1934);Association Collectors, Inc. v. King County, 194 Wash. 25, 76 P. (2d) 998 (1938); and Raynor v. King County, 2 Wn. (2d) 199, 219, 97 P. (2d) 696 (1940).  To reach a contrary result would be to conclude that a legislative mandate upon a public officer to make a payment at a given time can be defeated simply by the refusal or neglect of the officer to take affirmative steps in order to make such payment.  Such a result is unthinkable, and was expressly rejected in State ex rel. Spinney v. Hoss, supra.

            Similarly, we see no merit in the argument that the dues cannot be paid until the end of the calendar year in which they fall due.  The statute itself rejects that idea by expressly contemplating payment ". . . before the thirty-first day of December of any year. . . ."  At any rate, we see no possible legal basis for the objection.  We are not dealing with a private agency seeking payment for contractual services rendered.  Rather we are dealing with a state agency collecting an annual payment made mandatory by law.  Payment by a school district is not (as in the case of a business contract with a private individual) conditioned necessarily upon the actual rendition of specific services, or services over a prescribed period of time.

            In summary, we conclude as follows: (1) When the Washington state school directors' association has established a schedule of dues for the members of the association under RCW 28.58.360, it is the duty of each board of directors of member districts to make provision annually for the payment of such dues and to order such payment; and (2) if a district fails to carry out its obligation to pay dues in a particular year, it is the duty of the county auditor (pursuant to a written request of the executive committee of the association) to satisfy the district's obligation by the transfer of district funds,  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] whether the delinquency be for current dues or for dues unpaid during previous years in which the proper schedule of dues was established.

            We trust this advice will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

ROBERT F. HAUTH
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/The manner of payment in general is prescribed by RCW 28.58.150(7), RCW 28.62.110 and RCW 28.66.040.

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