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AGO 1950 No. 220 - February 20, 1950
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

COUNTY COMMISSIONERS --  POWER TO INCREASE ANNUAL APPROPRIATION FOR "SALARIES AND WAGES" BY EMERGENCY RESOLUTION

County Commissioners in the exercise of their discretion may by emergency resolution declare that a public emergency exists and appropriate additional funds to the general class of "salaries and wages," over and above amount provided by annual budget.

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                                                                February 20, 1950

Honorable Patrick M. Steele
Prosecuting Attorney
Pierce County
Tacoma, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 220

Dear Sir:

            We acknowledge receipt of your letter of December 27, 1949, in which you ask whether the county commissioners may by emergency resolution, appropriate funds over and above the amount appropriated by the regular budget to the class "salaries and wages."

            Our conclusions are that the county commissioners in the exercise of their discretion may determine that a valid emergency does in fact exist, and by following the procedure set forth in section 2, chapter 143, Laws of 1925, Ex. Sess. (Rem. Rev. Stat. 3997-6) appropriate additional funds to the general class in the annual budget denominated "salaries and wages."

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            By section 1, chapter 301, Laws of 1927 (Rem. Rev. Stat. 3997-5), amending section 5, chapter 164, Laws of 1923, the Legislature provided that the estimates of expenditures provided for by section 4, chapter 164, Laws of 1923, shall become the appropriations to the various classes by the county commissioners, and that by a resolution formally adopted by the commissioners additions and transfers within the general class of salaries and wages may be made; provided, however, thatno salary item may be increased above the amount appropriated therefor, and that no expenditures shall be made above the amounts appropriated without declaring an emergency; and by following the procedure set forth in section 2, chapter 143, Laws of 1925, Ex. Sess., the commissioners may enact an emergency resolution to increase the appropriation.  This section was interpreted, however, by State ex rel. Ross v. King County, 191 Wash. 340, 71 P. (2d) 370, in which the court held that no salary class shall be increased above the total appropriated but, having the power to make transfers and revisions, it necessarily followed that revisions downward  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] were within the power of the commissioners.  The opinion further points out that (although this was not done in the case,) the commissioners by emergency resolution could have appropriated more funds for the general class "salaries and wages."

            The Legislature in 1943 changed the wording somewhat of Rem. Rev. Stat. 3997-5 by section 1, chapter 66, Laws of 1943, but provided therein in substance the same wording as to salaries and wages as was the earlier law, and maintained exactly the wording of the proviso that no salary class shall be increased above the total amount appropriated therefor.  It will be noted that the provision for a resolution of the commissioners making provisions or transfers within the general class of salaries and wages remains.

            By referring to section 1, chapter 201, Laws of 1945, it will be found that Rem. Rev. Stat. 3997-5 was again amended and again the commissioners are empowered to make transfers or revisions within the general class of salaries or wages, in addition to other classes, and again a limiting proviso is included prohibiting the commissioners from increasing above the total amount appropriated therefor to any salary class.

            It therefore follows that although certain changes in language have been made since interpretation of the act as worded in 1927, nowhere has the act been amended to prohibit the commissioners as to "salaries and wages" from passing an emergency resolution as provided by Rem. Rev. Stat. 3997-6.

            We accordingly hold that although the county commissioners may not make revisions in the general class of salaries and wages above the amount appropriated therefor by a regular resolution, they may do so by following the procedure set forth in Rem. Rev. Stat. 3997-6 by declaring that a public emergency does exist, and by emergency resolution appropriate additional funds for the salaries and wages provision of the regular county budget.

Yours very truly,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

PHILIP W. RICHARDSON
Assistant Attorney General

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