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AGO 1960 No. 102 - February 25, 1960
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

FUNDS - FEDERAL FOREST RESERVE - USE TO PAY EXPENSES OF COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOL'S OFFICE.

Federal forest reserve funds may not be used to pay the salary of the county school superintendent, his stenographer's salary, or other normal expenses such as travel, car repair and capital outlay for office equipment.

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                                                                February 25, 1960

Honorable Lee J. Reynolds
Prosecuting Attorney
Clallam County
Aldwell Building
Port Angeles, Washington                                                                                       Cite as:  AGO 59-60 No. 102

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged, you have requested the opinion of this office as to whether federal forest reserve funds may be used to pay the salary of the county school superintendent, his stenographer's salary, and other normal expenses such as travel, car repair, and capital outlay for office equipment.

            We answer your question in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            It is fundamental, of course, that municipal corporations have only the powers expressly granted to them by statute, and those necessarily implied from powers expressly granted.  Pacific First Fed. Sav. & Loan Assn. v. Pierce County, 27 Wn. (2d) 347, 178 P. (2d) 351 (1947).  The same rule applies to state officers and agencies generally.  SeeState ex rel. Eastvold v. Maybury, 49 Wn. (2d) 533, 304 P. (2d) 663 (1956); 43 Am.Jur., Public Officers, § 249.

            We have found no statute expressly authorizing the use of forest funds forany purpose in the county superintendent's budget.  The question to be decided then is whether authority for such use can be found by implication from the terms of any existing statute or statutes.  RCW 36.33.110, relative to forest reserve funds, provides as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "The state treasurer shall turn over to the treasurers of the counties within United States forest reserves, the amount of money belonging to them, received from the federal government from such reserves, in accordance with Title 16, section 500, United States Code Annotated.  Where the reserve is situated in more than one county the money shall be distributed in proportion to the area of the counties interested, and to that end the state treasurer may obtain the necessary information to enable him to make the distribution on such basis.

            "County commissioners of the respective counties to which the money is distributed are authorized and directed to expend said money for the benefit of the public schools, including school maintenance and building purposes, and public roads thereof, and not otherwise."

            Relating to the county superintendent's budget, the following sections of chapter 216, Laws of 1959, are applicable:

            "Sec. 25.  Section 29, chapter 157, Laws of 1955 and RCW 28.19.110 are each amended to read as follows:

            "The board of county commissioners of each county annually at the time the budgets are prepared for the several county offices shall allocatefrom county funds to the county superintendent for his budget an amount sufficient to allow the county superintendent to fulfill the duties and powers of his office."  (Emphasis supplied)

            "Sec. 27.  Section 31, chapter 157, Laws of 1955 and RCW 28.19.120 are each amended to read as follows:

            "The state board of education shall examine the budget of each county superintendent and fix the amount to be allocated thereto from state funds and certify to the state superintendent of public instruction the amount of state funds needed for the county superintendents' budgets as approved by the state board of education and shall require the state superintendent of public instruction to allocate this amount from the current state school fund or from funds otherwise appropriated for that purpose to the county treasurers for deposit to  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] the credit of the county superintendents' budgets for the use of the common schools.  In each county or consolidation of county superintendents' offices there is hereby created a county superintendent's special service fund into which such funds as are allocated by the superintendent of public instruction under provisions of this act and all such funds as are not specifically allocated by thecounty current expense fund, shall be deposited, and such funds shall be expended by warrants drawn by the county auditor upon vouchers approved by the county superintendent and the county board of education."  (Emphasis supplied)

            In examining these sections, we find two categories of funds which are available by law for the county superintendent's budget.  (1) County funds § 25; (2) State funds § 27.  The question is whether or not the legislature meant to include federal forest funds in either category.

            The only object of construing a statute is to ascertain the meaning and intention of the legislature, and such intention, when discovered, is controlling.  Cory v. Nethery, 19 Wn. (2d) 326, 142 P. (2d) 488 (1943).

            In determining legislative intention, resort must first be had to the context and subject matter of the legislation, because the intention of the law makers is to be deduced, if possible, from the words used.  Hatzenbuhler v. Harrison, 49 Wn. (2d) 691, 306 P. (2d) 745 (1957).  All acts relating to the subject matter or having the same purpose should be read in connection therewith as together constituting one law.  State v. Houck, 32 Wn. (2d) 681, 203 P. (2d) 693 (1949).

            From our examination of the foregoing statutes, we do not believe that the legislature, by the terms "state funds" and "county funds," meant to include federal forest reserve funds.

            Regarding state funds, according to § 27, supra, the state superintendent of public instruction is to allocate the required amount made available in this section from the current state school fund or from funds otherwise appropriated for that purpose to the county treasurers for the county superintendents' budgets.  By prescribing this procedure, the legislature has evidenced its intention not to include federal forest funds since, according to RCW 36.33.110, supra, those funds are turned over to county treasurers by the state treasurer without any allocation or other action by the state board of education or superintendent of public instruction.  It must be presumed that the legislature, in enacting § 27, supra, had knowledge of the existing statute as to distribution of federal forest funds.  SeeBenn v. Grays Harbor County, 102 Wash. 620, 173 Pac. 632 (1918);State v. Thornbury, 190 Wash. 549,  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] 69 P. (2d) 815 (1937).  The legislature was also aware of the principles of statutory construction.  State ex rel. Gebhardt v. Superior Court, 15 Wn. (2d) 673, 131 P. (2d) 943 (1942).  Yet, despite this knowledge, no mention of forest funds is made in § 27, supra, and the legislature makes no attempt to apply the procedure outlined in § 27, supra, to those funds.  A legislative intention not expressed in some appropriate manner has no legal existence.  State ex rel. Gebhardt v. Superior Court, supra.

            Turning now to the category of county funds, it does not appear that in § 25, chapter 216, Laws of 1959, the legislature intended to include forest funds, but rather intended that the county superintendent, as other county officers, should be allotted an amount sufficient to fulfill the duties and powers of his office out of the current expense fund of the county.  The sources of this fund are specified in RCW 36.33.010 which provides as follows:

            "Every county shall maintain a current expense fund to which shall be credited all taxes levied for that purpose and all fees collected, fines assessed, and forfeitures adjudged in the county the proceeds of which have not been specifically allocated to any other purpose."

            Reading §§ 25 and 27 together, as we must, it is significant to note that in § 27, the legislature refers to the current expense fund as the source of county allocations.  The legislature obviously meant that county funds for the school superintendents' budgets would come from the particular fund in each county used exclusively for general county government; not from federal funds allocated to counties for certain special purposes.

            Finally, we are aware that the foregoing construction has been placed upon these statutes uniformly throughout the state over a long period of time, and that the use of federal forest funds for the purpose in question has been of recent origin.  We believe this long-adhered-to construction is in accordance with the intent of the legislature revealed on the face of the statutes.  However, if it be assumed that there is any ambiguity in the statutes, our court has held that construction placed upon a statute by the officer or department charged with its administration is entitled to considerable weight in determining legislative intent and the persuasive force of such interpretation is strengthened when the legislature, by its failure to amend the statute, silently acquiesces in the administrative construction.  SeeBradley v. Department of Labor and Industries, 52 Wn. (2d) 780, 329 P. (2d) 196 (1958); State ex rel. Blume v. Yelle, 52 Wn. (2d) 158, 324 P. (2d) 247 (1958).

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            Accordingly, it is our opinion that the legislature has not expressly or by necessary implication authorized the use of federal forest reserve funds for the county superintendent's budgets.  Therefore, we must conclude no such authority exists at the present time.  Although, it may be argued that we have placed a strict construction on the statutes, we feel that because of the administrative practice referred to above such must be the position of this office.  It follows that if a more liberal interpretation is desired, clarifying legislation should be submitted to the next session of our legislature.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

ROBERT F. HAUTH
Assistant Attorney General

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