Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1953 No. 163 - Nov 2 1953
Attorney General Don Eastvold


City council cannot authorize salary increase for municipal employees after adoption of final budget unless real emergency exists.  (See opinion, Auditor's Office, 8/11/49).

City employee's salary may be increased above amount fixed in budget by initiative, if city charter permits.

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                                                                November 2, 1953

Honorable Cliff Yelle
State Auditor
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 163

Attention:  !ttMr. A. E. Hankins

            Chief Examiner

Dear Sir:

            By letter dated October 23, 1953, as previously acknowledged, you have requested the opinion of this office upon questions arising from the following facts: A city of the first class has adopted its 1954 budget by ordinance, pursuant to chapter 35.33 RCW.  Since the adoption of the budget certain members of the city council have expressed a desire to increase the salaries of a number of municipal employees.

            Your questions are:

            1. Has the city council power to reconsider the budget for the purpose of increasing the salaries of municipal employees?

            2. If not, is there any procedure whereby such an employee's salary can be increased after adoption of the budget?

            Our conclusions are:

            1. In the absence of an emergency as hereinafter discussed, the city council cannot authorize salaries in excess of those fixed by the budget.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            2. A city employee's salary may be increased above the amount fixed in the budget by initiative, if the city charter so provides.


            1. After the budget has been adopted pursuant to RCW 35.33.070, the city's appropriations as classified and itemized therein are fixed for the ensuing fiscal year.  RCW 35.33.120.  RCW 35.33.040 requires that each salary item be set forth separately, together with the title or position of the recipient.  RCW 35.33.120 expressly provides that no salary shall be increased above the amount provided therefor in the budget.  The only authorized departure from the final budget applicable to the present situation is that set out in RCW 35.33.090.  The question of the existence of an emergency under this statute is of course one of fact, to be determined in the first instance by the city council.  The application of such a statute in the case of salary increase is discussed in the attached opinion of August 11th, 1949, addressed to your office.

            2. Salaries in excess of those provided for by the final budget may be fixed by initiative.  State ex rel. Payne v. Spokane, 17 Wn. (2d) 22; State ex rel. Knez v. Seattle, 176 Wash. 283; and State ex rel. Pike v. Bellingham, 183 Wash. 439.  Such action would be contingent upon the existence of an initiative provision in the city charter.  If an ordinance were passed in this manner, it would be the duty of the city council to provide funds for the payment of such additional salaries.  SeeState ex rel. Pike v. Bellingham, supra, at p. 446;State ex rel. Knez v. Seattle, supra, at pp. 284, 5.

            We hope the foregoing discussion will prove to be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General