Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1979 No. 4 -
Attorney General Slade Gorton


Neither RCW 28A.58.136 nor any other present statute allows a school district to contract with a food service contractor to purchase foodstuff and other supplies, collect money, prepare tax returns, etc.; instead, such food service contractors may only be utilized for the preparation and service of food.

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                                                                February 28, 1979

Honorable Robert V. Graham
State Auditor
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington 98504

                                                                                                                   Cite as:  AGO 1979 No. 4

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you requested our opinion on the following question:

            "Does RCW 28A.58.136 allow school districts to contract with food service contractors to purchase foodstuffs and other supplies, collect money, prepare tax returns, etc., or are the food service contractors restricted to the preparation and service of food?"

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


            RCW 28A.58.136 relates, basically, to the maintenance and operation of lunchrooms by public school districts in our state.  This statute, as last amended by § 2, chapter 107, Laws of 1973, reads as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "The directors of any school district may establish, equip and operate lunchrooms in school buildings for pupils, certificated and noncertificated employees, and for school or employee functions:  PROVIDED, That the expenditures for food supplies shall not exceed the estimated revenues from the sale of lunches, federal lunch aid, Indian education fund lunch aid, or other anticipated revenue, including donations, to be received for that purpose:  PROVIDED FURTHER, That the directors of any school district may provide for the use of kitchens and lunchrooms or other facilities in school buildings to furnish meals to elderly persons at cost as provided in RCW 28A.58.722.  Operation for the purposes of this section shall include the employment and discharge for sufficient cause of personnel necessary for preparation of food or supervision of students during lunch periods and fixing their compensation, payable from the district general fund, or entering into agreement for the preparation and service of food by a private agency."

            Insofar as the establishment and equipping of school lunchrooms is concerned, it seems clear from the statute, as written, that those two functions are to be performed by the school district itself and not by some outside private agency.  When it comes to operation, however, RCW 28A.58.136 affords a school district two options:  First, the district may itself operate a lunchroom with its own personnel employed for that purpose.  Or, alternatively, the district may enter into an agreement ". . . for thepreparation and service of food by a private agency."  (Emphasis supplied).  Notably, however, the statute (as currently worded) does not say that a school district may ". . . enter into an agreement with a private agency for the operation of a school lunchroom, . . ." or words to that effect.

            It is fundamental that school districts, as municipal corporations, have only those powers which have been granted to them by the legislature, either expressly or by necessary implication.  Juntila v. Everett School Dist. No. 24, 178 Wash. 637, 35 P.2d 78 (1934);Seattle High School Chapter No. 200 v. Sharples, 159 Wash. 424, 293 Pac. 994 (1930).  Moreover, where a statute specifically designates the things to which it refers, there is an inference that all omissions were intended by  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] the legislature.  State v. Rhodes, 71 Wn.2d 705, 430 P.2d 586 (1967).  In addition, two further basic principles of statutory construction are to be noted.  First, it is well settled that in construing a statute, words must be given their usual and ordinary meaning in the absence of a special legislative definition to the contrary.  Accord,Purse Seine v. Moos, 88 Wn.2d 799, 567 P.2d 205 (1977) and cases cited therein.  And secondly, words used in a statute are to be given a consistent meaning throughout unless it is clear that some other meaning was intended.  DeGrief v. Seattle, 50 Wn.2d 1, 297 P.2d 940 (1956).

            Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language (2nd College Edition) definesprepare and serve as follows:

            "Prepare: . . . 4.  to put together or make out of materials, ingredients, parts, etc., or according to a plan or formula; construct; compound [to prepare dinner, to prepare a medicine] . . ."

            "Serve: . . . 7. . . . (b) to offer or set food, etc. before (a person) . . ."

            It is also to be noted that the legislature used the word "preparation" in describing the function which a school board could perform either through regular personnel employed directly by the district or by agreement with a private agency.  In neither case, however, does this word alone denote the purchase of foodstuff and other supplies, the collection of money or (most certainly) the preparation of tax returns, etc.  Nor, by the same token, does the word "service" carry with it any such broader implications.

            Therefore, in direct answer to your question, it is our opinion that RCW 28A.58.136,supra, does not authorize school districts to contract with food service contractors to purchase foodstuff and other supplies, collect money, prepare tax returns, etc.  Instead, the only functions to be performed by such private agencies, by agreement with a school district operating a lunchroom, are the actual preparation and service of food within such lunchrooms.  Furthermore, we are unaware of any other statute which would provide authority for the  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] directors of a school district to enter into agreements with food service contractors having any broader scope in terms of the functions to be performed by such private agencies.1/

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

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/In view of this answer to your primary question, it is unnecessary for us to consider two additional questions contained in your letter, both of which were based on the premise that a food service contractor retained by a school district under RCW 28A.58.136, supra, could, additionally, be engaged in the purchasing of foodstuff and other supplies for use in the lunchrooms of the school district to which it is under contract.