Opinion 90-44

This opinion represents the views of the Office of the State Comptroller at the time it was rendered. The opinion may no longer represent those views if, among other things, there have been subsequent court cases or statutory amendments that bear on the issues discussed in the opinion.

VILLAGE BOARD -- Compensation (statement of in notice of budget hearing as excluding fringe benefits)
PUBLIC OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES -- Compensation (salary exclusive of fringe benefits for purposes of village budget hearing)
WORDS AND PHRASES -- Compensation (for purposes of Village Law, §5-508[3])

VILLAGE LAW, §5-508: The compensation proposed to be paid to members of a village board of trustees which must be published in the notice of public hearing on the tentative budget refers only to the salary, or fixed, periodic cash consideration, proposed to be paid, exclusive of the cost or value of fringe benefits.

This is in response to your inquiry concerning the notice of public hearing with respect to the tentative budget of a village, required by section 5-508(3) of the Village Law. In pertinent part, that section requires the published notice to include a statement of the proposed "compensation" for each member of the board of trustees. You ask whether the "compensation" referred to in section 5-508(3) is limited to salary or must also include the cost or value of fringe benefits.

Section 5-508 of the Village Law is a part of article 5 of the Village Law, relating to the preparation and adoption of the annual budget. Pursuant to that article, the tentative budget must include "[a] schedule of wages and salaries to be paid", and must show "for each office or position of employment, the title, the number of persons in the title, [and] the recommended rate of compensation for the title ..." (Village Law, §5-506[1][f]). Thereafter, the published notice of the hearing upon the tentative budget, as noted, must "state the compensation proposed to be paid to each member of the board of trustees" (Village Law, §5-508[3]). That section of the Village Law further provides that, upon the adoption of the budget by resolution of the board of trustees, "the wages and salaries shown on the schedule thereof shall be fixed at the amounts shown therein" (§5-508[4]). Thus, article 5 of the Village Law uses both the phrases "compensation" and "wages and salaries", but does not define these terms (see, e.g., Village Law, §5-500).

In the absence of a statutory definition, the term "compensation", for municipal law purposes, generally has been held to mean the total consideration to which a municipal officer or employee is entitled, including both salary or wages and fringe benefits (see, e.g., Taylor v McGuire, 100 Misc 2d 834, 420 NYS2d 248; Christian v County of Ontario, 92 Misc 2d 51, 399 NYS2d 379). It is also sometimes used interchangeably, however, with the terms "salary" or "wages" to mean simply the fixed cash consideration periodically paid, or the per hour, per diem or per week remuneration to which an officer or employee is entitled (see, 1987 Opns St Comp No. 87-8, p 13; 1985 Opns St Comp No. 85-13, p 15; 1984 Opns St Comp No. 84-4, p 4; see also, 1979 Opns St Comp No. 79-266-A, p 48 and No. 79-741, p 150). The meaning to be ascribed to the term as used in any particular statute will necessarily depend upon legislative intent.

As a general rule of statutory construction, legislative intent may be discerned by considering all parts of a statute together (McKinney's Statutes, Book 1, §97, and cases cited therein). Statutory intent must be found "not in the words of a particular section alone but by comparing it with other parts or provisions of the general scheme of which it is part" (id., at p. 213). In short, the meaning of a particular term in a statute cannot be determined in isolation, but rather by construing it in the context of the law of which it is a part.

Thus, read in context, we believe that the term "compensation", as used in Village Law, §5-508(3), refers only to the fixed, periodic cash consideration. We believe this to be so because section 5-508(3) requires the notice of hearing to state the "compensation proposed to be paid to each member of the board of trustees" (emphasis added) and most fringe benefits, such as health insurance, are non-cash benefits not ordinarily regarded as being "paid to" a board member. Further, we believe that the term "compensation" as used in section 5-508(3) is intended to refer to the "wages", "salaries" and "rate[s] of compensation" (emphasis added) required to be shown in the tentative budget by section 5-506(1)(f). In our view, because the items required to be included in the tentative budget clearly refer to regular, periodic cash entitlements and not to fringe benefits, the reference to compensation in the notice of hearing on that budget should be similarly construed.

Finally, we note that this construction of Village Law, §5-508(3) is consistent with the statutory provisions governing the town and county budget processes which require the notice of budget hearings to include statements of "the proposed salaries" payable to each member of the town board (Town Law, §108) and "the maximum salary, or the maximum rate of per diem compensation, or both" of the members of the county legislative body (County Law, §359). Although section 5-508(3) refers to "compensation", rather than "salary" as do the comparable provisions of the Town and County Laws, we believe that it is unlikely that the Legislature intended a different level of disclosure in the notice of public hearing in the case of villages.

Therefore, based on the foregoing, it is our opinion that where village trustees are paid a salary and receive fringe benefits, section 5-508(3) requires the notice of hearing on the tentative budget to state only the salary proposed to be paid to each trustee, without regard to the cost or value of fringe benefits.

November 5, 1990
Richard Allen Siegel, Esq., Village Attorney
Village of Sea Cliff