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 The opinion may no longer represent those views if, among other things, there have been subsequent court cases or statutory amendments that bear on the issues discussed in the opinion.
MUNICIPAL FUNDS -- Appropriations and Expenditures (travel expenses - where spouse accompanies school board member)
PUBLIC OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES -- Reimbursement for Expenses (travel expenses - spouse of school board member attending conference)
GENERAL MUNICIPAL LAW, §77-b: A school district may not authorize the incurrence and payment of travel and lodging expenses of the spouse of a member of the board of education who accompanies the board member in attending a conference, even if board member has provided advance payment to school district.
You ask whether a school district may authorize the incurrence and payment of the travel and lodging expenses of the spouse of a member of the board of education who accompanies the board member in attending a conference. You state that the board member would pay to the district, prior to the incurrence of the expense, the amount of the spouse's expenses. You also state that the purpose of such arrangement is to obtain preferable travel and lodging rates.
Section 77-b of the General Municipal Law provides that the governing board of a "municipality", including a school district, may authorize any of its members or any officer or employee to attend a conference conducted for the betterment of the municipality. Authorization must be by resolution adopted prior to attendance, or the governing board may delegate the power to authorize attendance to any executive officer or administrative board (General Municipal Law, §77-b). Section 77-b provides for the payment by the municipality of all actual and necessary registration fees, all actual and necessary expenses of travel, meals and lodging, and all necessary tuition fees incurred in connection with attendance at a conference. Claims for these expenses are audited, allowed and paid in the same manner as other claims against the municipality (General Municipal Law, §77-b).
By its express terms, section 77-b authorizes a municipality to authorize only its officers and employees, and not the spouses of its officers and employees, to attend a conference. Thus, we have previously stated that section 77-b authorizes a municipality to pay the actual and necessary expenses only of its authorized personnel and not those of the spouses of such individuals (see 1979 Opns St Comp No. 79-358, unreported; 32 Opns St Comp, 1976, p 156; cf. 1976 Opns St Comp No. 76-811, unreported, and 29 Opns St Comp, 1973, p 38, in which we concluded that the lodging expenses of a board member sharing a room with his or her spouse may be reimbursed by the municipality at the usual rate of a single occupancy room). Since the spouse of a member of a school district's board of education is not a person who the board may authorize to attend a conference pursuant to General Municipal Law, §77-b, the school district may not authorize the incurrence and payment of the spouse's lodging expenses, even if the board member has provided advance payment to the school district.
March 12, 1993
David S. Shaw, Esq., Attorney
Poughkeepsie City School District