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EXTENSION ADMINISTRATIVE HANDBOOK - KANSAS STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL OPINIONS

Chapter 1 Section D9. Extension Councils Charging User Fees (1984)


September 19, 1984

TO:        Frank Dixon, Acting County Administrator

FROM:    Richard E. Keithley, Deputy Director, Legal Dept.

RE:        Legal Opinion No. 56-84, EXTENSION COUNCIL - May the extensioncouncil charge user fees in the extension program?

Discussion: Your question, as 1 understand it, is whether the Johnson County Extension Council can charge user fees in the extension program. Attached to the opinion request is a letter written by Richard H. Seaton, University Attorney, Kansas State University. That letter refers to the letter of Dr. Tom Knappenberger, chairman of the Johnson County Extension Council, which refers to four possible fees: (1) dues for 4-H Club members, (2) flat fees to 4-H Clubs and extension homemaker units for annual materials and training, (3) set fees for programs provided by agents to outside groups and organizations, and (4) registration fees for presentations to cover costs of supplies. Dr. Knappenberger’s letter is not enclosed, and I have no access to that letter and must refer to Mr. Seaton’ s letter digesting it.

The Johnson County Extension Council is formed pursuant to 7 U.S.C. 341 to 348 (the Smith-Lever Act) and K.S.A. 2-608 et seq. In construing state and federal statutes relating to organization, financing, and regulation of groups engaged in cooperative agricultural extension work, state and federal statutes should be interpreted and construed together. State. ex tel. v. Franklin County Farm Bureau, 172 Kan. 179, 239 P. 2d 570 (1951).

Although case law on cooperative extension councils are plentiful, other jurisdictions have assisted in the interpretation of various aspects of the Smith-Lever Act in their jurisdictions. The case of Wells v. Hutchinson, (E.D. Texas 1980) 499 F. Supp. 174,.at p. 182, gives an adequate explanation of the basic operations of most cooperative extension programs. See also Wade v. Mississippi Co-Op Extension Service, (N.D. Miss. 1974) 373 F. Supp.126. Cooperative farm bureaus are governmental agencies. State, ex tel. v. Franklin County Farm Bureau, 172 Kan. at p. 195; State, ex tel. Hall Company Farm Bureau v. Miller, et el., 178 NW 846 (1920); Jasper County Farm Bureau v. Jasper County, 286 SW 381 (1926).  Federal appropriations to be paid under the provisions of 7 U.S.C. 341 to 348 can only be expended by states acting through their legislatures. State, ex tel. Davis v. Clausan, 295 P. 751.

Generally speaking, the burden of the bureau is to be upon the county in which it is located Cloud County Farm Bureau v. Cloud Commissioners, 126 Kan. 322, 268 P.91 (1928). The legislature has provided for certain financing by virtue of a tax levy upon all tangible taxable property of the county sufficient to provide a program for county extension work and to pay a portion of the principal and interest on bonds issued under the authority of K.S.A. 12-1774 by cities located in the county. K.S.A. 2-610. Further, the legislature has provided limitations upon collecting dues for or paying dues to any local, state or national organization or association.

K.S.A. 2-616; Stare, ex tel. v. Franklin County Farm Bureau, 172 Kan. at p. 191. However, there is a provision for collecting fees for specific services which requires special equipment or personnel.  K.S.A. 2-616.

Reading the case law interpreting the Smith-Lever Act and the Kansas statutes together, it is clear that legislation providing for and establishing a county extension council is complete within itself and the county would be limited to certain circumstances for collecting user fees in order to be within the ambits of the legislation. Under no circumstances is the county authorized to collect or pay dues for or to any organization or association whatsoever. Thus, Nos. 1 and 2 are clearly outside the scope of the statutes, and No. 3 appears to be outside the scope of the statutes.

K.S.A. 2-616 provides that county extension councils may collect fees for specific services which require special equipment or personnel, such as a soil testing laboratory, seed testing service or other educational service. If the particular program requires specialized personnel or equipment, then Nos. 3 and 4 above could lawfully be included as a legitimate funding device. If Mr. Seaton’s views are correct that Dr. Knappenberger’s letter does not set forth any specialized requirements, then I must concur with Mr. Seaton’s views that they are not authorized fees.

Conclusion: I would basically concur with the university attorney, Mr. Richard H. Seaton, in his analysis of county extension council statutes. It is my belief that the county may not collect dues from 4-H Club members. Also, due to the apparent intent of the act, flat fees to 4-H clubs and extension homemaker units for annual materials and training are not authorized. Under certain circumstances, set fees for programs provided by agents to outside groups and organizations could be charged, provided that the fees are for a specialized service. Lastly, registration fees for presentations to cover the cost of supplies could be authorized, provided they were also for specialized equipment.

Please feel free to contact me should you have questions concerning this opinion.

Philip S. Harness



April 25, 1996

Mr. Ted D. Ayres
General Counsel
Kansas-Board of Regents

RE:    User Fees for Extension Educational Programs

Dear Ted:

Our associate director of extension has asked that we request, through your office, an attorney general’s opinion on the question whether county extension councils may charge user fees for the educational programs they provide.

Enclosed are copies of prior opinions from our office which touch on this subject, as well as some correspondence from Johnson County on the issue.

We would certainly appreciate your help, and that of the attorney general, in this matter. Thank you very much.

Richard H. Seaton
University Attorney




May 21, 1996

ATTORNEY GENERAL OPINION NO. 96- 44

Ted D. Ayres, General Counsel
Kansas Board of Regents

RE:        Agriculture—County Extension; Councils, Boards and Agents-Purpose of Extension Councils; User Fees

Synopsis:    A county extension council may not collect any fee unless the fee is for a specific  service which requires special equipment or personnel, such as a soil testing laboratory, seed testing service or other educational service. Whether an educational program fits within such parameters will depend upon the facts. Cited herein: K.S.A. 2-608; 2-610; 2-616.

Dear Mr. Ayres:

You request our opinion whether a county extension council may charge user fees for education programs.  K.S.A. 2-608 et seq. provide for the organization of county extension councils that provide instruction in agricultural, marketing, home economics, 4-H club and youth work, and community and resource development. K.S.A. 2-608, 2-616. The governing body is elected by citizens residing in county commissioner districts, and the council is funded by county tax levies as well as state and federal funds.

County extension councils are not instrumentalities of the county. (Attorney General Opinion No. 84-56.) Rather, they are creatures of statute and, therefore, have only such powers as are conferred by statute and such incidental powers as are necessary to carry out their statutory powers. State ex rel. Steere v. Franklin County Farm Bureau, 172 Kan. 179(1951).

The only statute relating to fees is subsection (b) of K.S.A. 2-616 which states, in relevant part,
as follows:

    “County extension councils ... may collect fee for specific services which require special equipment or personnel, such as a soil testing laboratory, seed testing service or other educational service ...”

We construe this provision to mean that a county extension council may not collect a fee unless the fee is for a specific service which requires special equipment or personnel, such as a soil testing laboratory, seed testing service or other educational service. Whether an educational program fits within such parameters will depend upon the facts.

CARLA J. STOVALL
Attorney General of Kansas

Mary Feighny
Assistant Attorney General