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AGO Opinion 98028

Return of Excess Veterans Aid Monies to the County Treasurer by the Veterans Service Committee or the Veterans Service Officer
Opinion 98028

DATE: June 22, 1998

SUBJECT: Return of Excess Veterans Aid Monies to the County Treasurer by the Veterans Service Committee or the Veterans Service Officer




REQUESTED BY: John Breslow, Auditor of Public Accounts




WRITTEN BY: Don Stenberg, Attorney General

Dale A. Comer, Assistant Attorney General




In your opinion request letter, you state that some county

veteran service officers in Nebraska have accumulated tax money in

checking accounts and certificates of deposit over the years. This

has occurred, by your understanding, because some county veterans

service committees have requested that the full amount of their

annual tax levy be paid to them at some point during the year. Any

amounts not actually spent by those committees in connection with

their duties were then retained by the county veterans service

officer in an account. You state that, over the years, these

amounts have accumulated to several thousands of dollars in some

counties. You are apparently concerned about this situation

because of the need for counties to account for these funds in

their accounting records and budget documents. Consequently, you

asked us "whether unused money in the possession of the county

veterans service officer at the end of the fiscal year must be

returned to the county treasurer?"




We have found no Nebraska statutes which directly address the

question posed in your opinion request letter. However, several

statutes have some bearing on the issue raised.




First of all, portions of Neb. Rev. Stat. § 80-102 (1996)

specifically deal with the veterans aid fund process at issue:




(1) The county veterans service committee shall meet at

least once each year or on call of the chairperson or of

any three members of the committee. It shall determine

the amount it considers necessary for providing aid,

including food, shelter, fuel, wearing apparel, medical

or surgical aid, or funeral expenses for [various

veterans in the county and their dependents] . . .

. The county veterans service committee shall certify

the amount so determined to the county board, which

amount shall be reviewed and considered by the county

board in making a levy for an aid fund.




(2) The county board of each county shall annually make

such levy or levies as needed to raise the required aid

fund referred to in subsection (1) of this section as the

county board determines is necessary, not exceeding one

cent on each one hundred dollars upon the taxable value

of all the taxable property of such county. Any

unexpended balance of the aid fund at the end of any

fiscal year shall remain in the fund, without

reappropriation, for future use. The committee or a

majority thereof shall fix the amount to be paid to each

claimant, subject to any amounts in the aid fund, and

promptly disburse the same to or for the benefit of the

claimant. The county clerk shall issue a warrant to the

committee or to the county veterans service officer as

directed by the committee upon the county treasurer for

such amount as the committee shall from time to time

request and as amounts in the aid fund permit. The

committee shall at the end of each year make a detailed

report of its transactions to the county board. Such

reports shall be accompanied with vouchers for all the

money disbursed.




In addition to § 80-102, portions of a number of statutes

pertaining to the county treasurer also have relevance to your

inquiry. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 23-1601 (1997) states:




It is the duty of the county treasurer to receive all

money belonging to the county, from whatever source

derived and by any method of payment provided by section

77-1702, and all other money which is by law directed to

be paid to him or her. . . .




Neb. Rev. Stat. § 77-2312 (1996) also provides:




The county treasurer of each and every county in the

State of Nebraska shall deposit, and at all times keep on

deposit for safekeeping in the state or national banks or

capital stock financial institutions doing business in

the county of approved and responsible standing, the

amount of money in his or her hands collected and held by

him or her as county treasurer. . . .




With respect to investment of county funds, Neb. Rev. Stat. § 77-

2315 (1996) states:




A county treasurer may by and with the consent of the

county board invest in United States Government bonds,

bonds and debentures issued either singly or collectively

by any of the twelve federal land bands, the twelve

intermediate credit banks, or the thirteen banks for

cooperatives under the supervision of the Farm Credit

Administration, United States Treasury notes, bills, or

certificates of indebtedness maturing within two years

from the date of purchase, or in certificates of deposit.

. . .




And with respect to the same topic, Neb. Rev. Stat. § 77-2340

(1996) provides:




The county treasurers of the various counties of the

state may, upon resolution of their respective county

boards authorizing the same, make time deposits in banks

or capital stock financial institutions selected as

depositories of county funds under the provisions of

sections 77-2312 to 77-2315. . . .




When the various statutes pertaining to the county treasurer

which are cited above are considered together, it is apparent that

the county treasurer is the primary county official with authority

to take custody of county funds. In addition, the county treasurer

is the primary county official with authority to deposit county

funds in banks and to make investments of county funds for the

county. In fact, with respect to the investment of county funds,

we previously stated in 1977-78 Rep. Att'y Gen. 115 (Opinion No.

78, dated April 19, 1977) that § 77-2315 does not allow a county

hospital board to independently invest surplus hospital funds.

Instead, we indicated in that opinion that such investments must be

made by the county treasurer.




On the other hand, while the statutes pertaining to the county

treasurer cited above create specific responsibilities and

authority for that officer, § 80-102 also specifically provides

that county warrants for payment out of the veterans aid fund shall

be made "to the [veterans aid] committee or to the county veterans

service officer" who then are to promptly disburse the same "to or

for the benefit of the claimant." It seems to us that this

language clearly contemplates that the direct payments to or for

claimants out of the veterans aid fund will be made in some fashion

by the veterans service committee or the veterans service officer

inasmuch as the treasurer's warrants are drawn to those officials

rather than to the individual veterans aid claimants. Moreover,

the year end report which is submitted by the veterans service

committee must be accompanied by "vouchers" for all money

disbursed. Under those circumstances, it does not seem to us that

it is unreasonable or impermissible for the county veterans service

committee or the veterans service officer to have a checking

account in place to make direct disbursements to or for claimants

under the veterans aid fund. In the absence of such an account,

all direct disbursements of veterans aid monies would have to be

made in cash.




We can find no direct statutory requirement that monies in a

veterans aid checking account or other veterans aid monies in the

possession of county veterans aid officials must be returned to the

county treasurer at the end of each fiscal year. And, since those

monies have been paid out of the county's veterans aid fund on

warrants drawn on the county treasurer, those monies are not,

strictly speaking, part of the county veterans aid fund maintained

by the county treasurer.




Consequently, in the absence of any clear statutory direction

in this area, we believe, in response to your specific question,

that monies held by veterans service committees or veterans service

officers in the various checking accounts referenced in your

opinion request letter need not be returned to the county treasurer

at the end of each fiscal year. However, we also believe that

neither the veterans service committee nor the veterans service

officer has authority to invest those funds in certificates of

deposit or otherwise. That responsibility for county funds rests

with the county treasurer.




It also seems to us that the practical solution to the problem

raised in your opinion request is for the veterans service

committees or veterans service officers in the counties at issue to

voluntarily return any excess funds which have accumulated in their

veterans aid checking accounts to the county treasurer in their

county at the end of the fiscal year. Under § 80-102(2), those

funds would have to be placed in the veterans aid fund for future

use, where they would be available, as needed, for veterans aid.

The county treasurer could then properly invest the funds to

maximize the return on the monies available. In the alternative,

county veterans service committees or veterans service officers

could, in the future, request veterans aid funds under § 80-102 in

the manner in which we believe that statute actually contemplates

withdrawals, i.e., in sums as needed from time to time throughout

the year rather than in one annual request for the entire levy.

Under those latter circumstances, § 80-102 requires that the county

board and other county officials make funds available to the

veterans service committee to the extent that monies remain

available in the veterans aid fund.




Sincerely yours,




DON STENBERG

Attorney General








Dale A. Comer

Assistant Attorney General