WCCC v. Casper Community College, No. 99-292

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Writing for the CourtLEHMAN, Chief Justice.
Citation31 P.3d 1242,2001 WY 86
PartiesThe WYOMING COMMUNITY COLLEGE COMMISSION; Cynthia Lummis, Wyoming State Treasurer, in Her Official Capacity; and Max Maxfield, Wyoming State Auditor, in His Official Capacity, Appellants (Defendants), v. CASPER COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT, STATE OF WYOMING; Laramie County Community College District, State of Wyoming; Northern Wyoming Community College District, State of Wyoming; Northwest Community College District, State of Wyoming; and Western Wyoming Community College District, State of Wyoming, Appellees (Plaintiffs). Fremont County Community College District, State of Wyoming; and Eastern Wyoming Community College District, State of Wyoming, Appellants (Intervenors), v. Casper Community College District, State of Wyoming; Laramie County Community College District, State of Wyoming; Northern Wyoming Community College District, State of Wyoming; Northwest Community College District, State of Wyoming; and Western Wyoming Community College District, State of Wyoming, Appellees (Plaintiffs).
Decision Date18 September 2001
Docket Number No. 99-292, No. 99-293.

31 P.3d 1242
2001 WY 86

The WYOMING COMMUNITY COLLEGE COMMISSION; Cynthia Lummis, Wyoming State Treasurer, in Her Official Capacity; and Max Maxfield, Wyoming State Auditor, in His Official Capacity, Appellants (Defendants),
v.
CASPER COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT, STATE OF WYOMING; Laramie County Community College District, State of Wyoming; Northern Wyoming Community College District, State of Wyoming; Northwest Community College District, State of Wyoming; and Western Wyoming Community College District, State of Wyoming, Appellees (Plaintiffs).
Fremont County Community College District, State of Wyoming; and Eastern Wyoming Community College District, State of Wyoming, Appellants (Intervenors),
v.
Casper Community College District, State of Wyoming; Laramie County Community College District, State of Wyoming; Northern Wyoming Community College District, State of Wyoming; Northwest Community College District, State of Wyoming; and Western Wyoming Community College District, State of Wyoming, Appellees (Plaintiffs)

Nos. 99-292, 99-293.

Supreme Court of Wyoming.

September 18, 2001.


31 P.3d 1244
Gay Woodhouse, Attorney General, and Rowena L. Heckert, Deputy Attorney General, Representing Appellants. Argument by Ms. Heckert

John M. Walker of Hickey, Mackey, Evans & Walker, Cheyenne, WY, and Wesley A. Roberts of Roberts & Watkins, Riverton, WY, Representing Appellants (Intervenors). Argument by Messrs. Walker and Roberts.

Tracy J. Copenhaver of Copenhaver, Kath & Kitchen, Powell, WY; Ford T. Bussart of Bussart, West, Rossetti, Piaia & Tyler, Rock Springs; Wallace L. Stock of Bailey & Stock, Cheyenne, WY; Houston Williams of Williams, Porter, Day & Neville, Casper, WY; and Hayden F. Heaphy, Jr. of Davis & Cannon, Sheridan, WY, Representing Appellees. Argument by Messrs. Copenhaver and Bussart.

Before LEHMAN, C.J., and THOMAS,1 MACY,2 and GOLDEN, JJ., and SPANGLER, D.J., Ret.

LEHMAN, Chief Justice.

[¶ 1] Appellants, Wyoming Community College Commission et al. (Commission) and Intervenor Community Colleges seek reversal of the district court's grant of declaratory judgment in favor of appellee Community Colleges. The district court ruled the defendant Commission had violated its governing statutes and its own rules by distributing funds appropriated for salary increases outside of the general distribution formula established pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 21-18-202(a)(xiv) (Lexis 1999). The district court then granted summary judgment to the appellee Community Colleges and ordered the Commission to distribute the funds through the formula. We conclude the district court erred in its interpretation of the applicable statutes and reverse and remand with instructions to enter an order consistent with this opinion.

ISSUES

[¶ 2] Appellant Commission presents the following issues for review:

I. Does the Court have subject matter jurisdiction when a declaratory judgment action has been used as a substitute for a petition for review of a final agency action?
II. In administering the state support for the community college system, may the Wyoming Community College Commission distribute money appropriated to raise salaries to a specific level in the manner which best effectuates the legislative intent for making the appropriation?
III. Is a reasonable harmonization by the Commission of the statutes it implements entitled to judicial deference?
IV. Was the Commission required to promulgate the funding formula as a rule, and
31 P.3d 1245
can a statement of Commission policy become a rule without having been promulgated in substantial compliance with the W.A.P.A.?
V. Is the Commission practice of effectuating the intent of the Legislature appropriate and lawful?

Appellee Community Colleges state the issues thus:

A. The trial court and this court have subject matter jurisdiction over this declaratory judgment action.
B. The trial court properly interpreted Wyoming statutes and properly ruled that the Wyoming Community College Commission violated those statutes.
C. The Wyoming Community College Commission violated its own rules.
D. The Wyoming Community College Commission violated its own policy and procedures.

Appellant-Intervenor Community Colleges presents this additional issue:

I. Did the trial court commit error when it failed to take into consideration the Wyoming Legislature's acquiescence in the final decision of the WCCC?

FACTS

[¶ 3] The Wyoming Community College Commission is an agency charged with, among other duties, the operation and maintenance of the state's community college system as well as the administration and distribution of state support authorized by the legislature for Wyoming's seven community college districts.3 In 1996, in recognition of the effect of wage levels on the retention of quality staff within the community college system, the Commission and community colleges cooperatively adopted a "salary comparator policy." This policy expressed the Commission's goal that faculty, non-teaching professional, and administrator salaries reach 100% of the mean salary for each category of employee as reported in the Mountain States' Association of Community Colleges (MSACC) annual salary survey. Stated more simply, the goal was to match the region's average salary for each category of employee. The policy also outlined the goal that support staff salaries reach 100% of local, in-state, market salary surveys for comparable positions. The MSACC salary survey's mean and local, in-state, market surveys were the two "comparator groups" to which Wyoming salaries of each category were to be compared.

[¶ 4] In 1997, the Commission determined that as part of its 1999-2000 biennium standard budget request to the legislature it would ask for funding to allow the colleges to achieve the state policy salary goal of reaching 90% of comparator group levels. The Commission later determined that as part of its 1999-2000 biennium exception budget request it would ask for additional funds to allow the colleges to achieve the Commission's own salary goal of reaching 100% (the mean) of comparator group levels. To that end, the Commission requested that each of the state's seven community colleges calculate and report the funding it would need to achieve both the 90% and 100% target salary levels as compared to the applicable comparator groups. The Commission neither specified a uniform method to be utilized by the community colleges in calculating their salary and benefits needs nor analyzed the colleges' submissions to determine whether comparable methods were used. The figures submitted by each community college for the biennium are outlined below as Table 1:

90% funding 100% funding College level request level request Casper College $ 69,909 $ 776,394 Central Wyoming College $ 673,490 $ 1,696,942 Eastern Wyoming College $ 403,722 $ 1,104,390 Laramie Cty. Comm. College $ 0 $ 1,055,238 Northwest College $ 150,458 $ 1,494,074 Northern Wy. Comm. College $ 87,597 $ 1,083,072 Western Wy. Comm. College $ 0 $ 590,602 Totals $ 1,385,176 $ 7,800,712

31 P.3d 1246
[¶ 5] The 90% level total of $1,385,176 was incorporated into the Commission's standard budget request, presented with specific reference to the legislature's Joint Appropriations Committee, and ultimately included in the legislature's appropriation to the Commission. However, the $1,385,176 for salary enhancement was not separately earmarked but was rather included in the general fund state aid appropriation of $88,567,228. See 1998 Wyo. Sess. Laws ch. 30, § 057

[¶ 6] Before distributing the appropriated funds to the colleges, the Commission examined four distribution options. Option (1) proposed distribution of all funds through the Commission's general distribution formula. The distribution formula, established pursuant to Wyo. Stat.Ann. § 21-18-202(a)(xiv) is a detailed model developed by the Commission, with input from the community colleges, that distributes funds to the colleges based upon various factors, chief among them, full time equivalency enrollment and square footage. Option (2) proposed distribution of the block grant through the general formula excepting the $1,385,176 for salary enhancement, which would instead be distributed to each college according to the sum previously submitted to the Commission as the college's salary need.4 Option (3) proposed distribution of the block grant through the general formula excepting the salary enhancement funds and equipment replacement funds. Option (4) proposed distribution of all funding through the general formula with a caveat to colleges that they use the funds available to bring salaries to 90% of market comparator for all employee classifications. Table 2 below outlines the amounts each college would receive under options (1) and (2):

Total by Block Grant by Formula Straight Formula Salary by Need College Option (1) Option (2) Difference Casper $31,517,585 $31,277,006 -$240,579 Central Wyo. $12,941,777 $13,487,774 $545,997 Eastern Wyo. $10,295,216 $10,597,517 $302,301 LCCC $26,980,742 $26,714,948 -$265,794 Northwest $19,008,832 $18,972,029 -$ 36,803 Northern Wyo. $18,946,999 $18,847,944 -$ 99,055 Western Wyo. $20,917,854 $20,711,787 -$206,067

[¶ 7] Not surprisingly, Central and Eastern Community Colleges (Appellant-Intervenors) favored Option (2) while the five remaining colleges (appellees) favored Option (1). The Administrative Services Council, comprised of the seven business managers for the community colleges, citing the stability and reliability it provides, unanimously voted to recommend that all funding be distributed through the formula [Option (1)]. On April 3, 1998, after lengthy discussion of the subject, the Commission voted 4-2 to distribute $1,385,176 of the state aid appropriation outside the formula as proposed by Option (2). Subsequently, a legislative member of the Joint Appropriations Committee asked the Commission to provide the methodologies used by...

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46 practice notes
  • Hill v. State, No. S–15–0133.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • March 2, 2016
    ...we will not read language into a statute that is otherwise clear and unambiguous. See Wyo. Cmty. Coll. Comm'n v. Casper Cmty. Coll. Dist., 2001 WY 86, ¶ 16, 31 P.3d 1242, 1249 (Wyo.2001). Thus, as a general matter, “[w]e are not concerned with the subjective reaction of the victim.” Levengo......
  • Director, Office of State Lands v. Merbanco, No. 01-261
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • June 6, 2003
    ...matters of constitutionality are at issue. Wyoming Community College Commission v. Casper Community College District, State of Wyoming, 2001 WY 86, 31 P.3d 1242 (Wyo.2001); Rocky Mountain Oil and Gas Association, 645 P.2d 1163. Certainly, a judicial determination of the constitutional propr......
  • Hede v. Gilstrap, No. 04-22.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • February 28, 2005
    ...action is subject to our usual standard for review of summary judgments. Wyoming Community College Com'n v. Casper Community College Dist., 2001 WY 86, ¶ 11, 31 P.3d 1242, 1247 (Wyo.2001); Fontaine v. Board of County Com'rs of Park County, 4 P.3d 890, 892 "This Court reviews a summary ......
  • Mountain Cement Co. v. the South of Laramie Water & Sewer Dist., Nos. S–10–0199
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 13, 2011
    ...310 (Wyo.2010); Rawlinson v. Greer, 2003 WY 28, ¶ 14, 64 P.3d 120, 123 (Wyo.2003); Wyo. Cmty. Coll. Comm'n v. Casper Cmty. Coll. Dist., 2001 WY 86, ¶ 16, 31 P.3d 1242, 1249 (Wyo.2001). In every case, we have defined the word ambiguous as meaning something like “vague or uncertain and subjec......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
46 cases
  • Hill v. State, No. S–15–0133.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • March 2, 2016
    ...we will not read language into a statute that is otherwise clear and unambiguous. See Wyo. Cmty. Coll. Comm'n v. Casper Cmty. Coll. Dist., 2001 WY 86, ¶ 16, 31 P.3d 1242, 1249 (Wyo.2001). Thus, as a general matter, “[w]e are not concerned with the subjective reaction of the victim.” Levengo......
  • Director, Office of State Lands v. Merbanco, No. 01-261
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • June 6, 2003
    ...matters of constitutionality are at issue. Wyoming Community College Commission v. Casper Community College District, State of Wyoming, 2001 WY 86, 31 P.3d 1242 (Wyo.2001); Rocky Mountain Oil and Gas Association, 645 P.2d 1163. Certainly, a judicial determination of the constitutional propr......
  • Hede v. Gilstrap, No. 04-22.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • February 28, 2005
    ...action is subject to our usual standard for review of summary judgments. Wyoming Community College Com'n v. Casper Community College Dist., 2001 WY 86, ¶ 11, 31 P.3d 1242, 1247 (Wyo.2001); Fontaine v. Board of County Com'rs of Park County, 4 P.3d 890, 892 "This Court reviews a summary judgm......
  • Mountain Cement Co. v. the South of Laramie Water & Sewer Dist., Nos. S–10–0199
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 13, 2011
    ...310 (Wyo.2010); Rawlinson v. Greer, 2003 WY 28, ¶ 14, 64 P.3d 120, 123 (Wyo.2003); Wyo. Cmty. Coll. Comm'n v. Casper Cmty. Coll. Dist., 2001 WY 86, ¶ 16, 31 P.3d 1242, 1249 (Wyo.2001). In every case, we have defined the word ambiguous as meaning something like “vague or uncertain and subjec......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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