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Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGLO 1978 No. 28 -
Attorney General Slade Gorton


In the context of a certain described factual situation, a reduction in the number of contract days required of the faculty and exempt employees of a community college district, coupled with a retention of the previous years' salary schedule, would result in salary increases within the meaning of § 14(8), chapter 339, Laws of 1977, 1st Ex. Sess.

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                                                               September 8, 1978

Honorable Max M. Snyder, President
Community College District § 17
N. 2000 Greene Street
Spokane, Washington 99207                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1978 No. 28

Dear Sir:

            This is written in response to your recent request for our opinion regarding the meaning of the term "salary increase," as used in § 14(8), chapter 339, Laws of 1977, 1st Ex. Sess., in the context of a certain described factual situation.


            Section 14, chapter 339, Laws of 1977, 1st Ex. Sess., is part of the state operating budget act for the 1977-79 biennium and contains several "special appropriations" to the governor for various described objects‑-but mainly, for salary increases for different categories of state employees.  Included among those employees are faculty and exempt (i.e., non-civil service) employees of the community colleges.  See, § 14(8), chapter 339,supra, which reads, in pertinent part as follows:

            "(8) Not more than $18,134,000 . . . shall be expended to effect salary increases including increments or their equivalents for faculty and exempt employees of the community college  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] system.  Not more than $14,223,000 of this amount shall be expended to effect, beginning July 1, 1977, an average 10% salary increase including increments or their equivalents for faculty and exempt employees of each community college district:  PROVIDED, That no district may grant from any fund source any additional salary increase greater than that provided in this act for faculty and exempt employees except that in addition to the increase provided herein, those districts whose actual average faculty salary for 1976-77 is less than that earned from the system's 1976-77 hypothetical schedule may increase the average salary of the faculty and exempt employees in 1977-78 up to the average earned by the district from the hypothetical schedule or 5% whichever is less, as determined from rules and regulations promulgated by the State Board for Community College Education."

            Your question involves a specific factual situation at Spokane Falls Community College.  As you have described the situation, the community college district previously adopted a certain annualized salary schedule for its faculty and exempt employees covering a 1977-78 academic year which consisted of 175 contract days.  However, although thus expressed in terms of an annual amount, the salaries were actually paid on the basis of a per diem rate which was contractually defined as ". . . the annual contract amount divided by the annual contract days."  Accord, Article VIII, Section A of the district's "Master Contract" with its employees covering the period from July 1, 1976, through June 30, 1978.1/   Therefore, for example, if an employee took leave without pay for a given number of days (as distinguished from earned vacation time or compensated sick leave) the result would be a deduction ". . . from the [employee's] annual salary at the per diem rate times the number of days without pay."2/

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]   Now, for the forthcoming 1978-79 academic year it has been proposed that the district, while retaining the same annualized salary schedule under essentially the same Master Contract, nevertheless reduce the number of contract days (i.e., days during which services are required to be rendered by its employees) from 175 to 166.  And your question, in turn, is whether this action by the district would result in a "salary increase" within the meaning of the above‑quoted language of § 14(8), chapter 339,supra.

            In any opinion in which we are called upon to review legislative action such as this, our primary purpose is to ascertain legislative intent.  In this task we employ the same tools that the courts use in their review of legislative action; that is to say, we turn to the rules of statutory construction.  One of the most basic of those rules is that words used in a legislative enactment, unless otherwise defined, are to be given their usual and ordinary meaning.  See,Dominick v. Christensen, 87 Wn.2d 25, 548 P.2d 541 (1976); Marino Property v. Port of Seattle, 88 Wn.2d 822, 567 P.2d 1125 (1977); andRasor v. Retail Credit, 87 Wn.2d 516, 554 P.2d 1041 (1976).

            In this case the key words are "salary increase."  Webster's Third New International Dictionary (unabridged) (1971) defines salary as "fixed compensation paid regularly (as by the year, quarter, month or week) for services" and it defines increase as the "act of increasing:  as A:  addition or enlargement in size, extent, quantity, number, intensity, value, substance. . . ."  Here, although the proposal in question would not increase an employee's annual salary it clearly would increase his or her daily salary (i.e., the per diem rate as above defined).  To illustrate let us assume, specifically, the case of a faculty member employed by the community college district during the 1977-78 academic year (consisting of 175 contract days) for a total annualized salary of $17,500.  In addition, for ease of analysis, we will assume that this employee, although reemployed for the 1978-79 academic year, is not entitled to any incremental increases available under the college's adopted salary schedule‑-with the result that his salary remains the same, $17,500 per year level.  But this time, his contract year would consist only of 166 contract days, or nine days less than were required of him for 1977-78.

            Simple arithmetic readily reveals the result.  For 1977-78 our hypothetical employee was compensated at the per diem rate of $100 per contract day ($17,500¸175) while his salary for 1978-79 would compute out at $105.40 for each contract day of service he performs ($17,500¸166).  Thus, clearly, he would receive in 1978-79 a higher rate of  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] compensation than was received in the previous year for services of him; i.e., a "salary increase" as defined by Webster's Third New International Dictionary, supra.


            Therefore, in direct answer to your question, it is our opinion, based upon the plain of the terms used by the legislature in § 14(8), supra, that the proposed reduction in contract days above described, with the annualized salaries remaining the same under essentially the same Master Contract, would result in a "salary increase" within the mean of the subject legislation.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/It is our understanding that faculty members at Spokane Falls are employed under individual written contracts which incorporate by reference the Master Contract negotiated between the college and the faculty bargaining unit.

2/Article VIII, Section 6, supra.