Opinion 97 - 22


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 The opinion may no longer represent those views if, among other things, there have been subsequent court cases or statutory amendments that bear on the issues discussed in the opinion.



BONDS AND NOTES -- Permissible Uses (financing by county of construction of community college dormitory)

COMMUNITY COLLEGES -- Powers and Duties (financing dormitory construction)

COUNTIES -- Powers and Duties (financing the cost of community college dormitory)

EDUCATION LAW, 6304, 6306: The county governing board, and not the county community college board of trustees, may authorize the issuance of indebtedness to finance the cost of construction of a dormitory for the county community college.

This is in reply to your letter concerning a proposal to build a dormitory for a community college whose sole local sponsor is a county. You ask who, as between a community college board of trustees and the county, may authorize the issuance of indebtedness to finance the construction of a dormitory. For purposes of this opinion, we will discuss only powers and duties of the college board of trustees and the county in this regard, and not those of the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York.

Any city, county, intermediate school district, school district approved by the State University Trustees, or community college region approved by the State University Trustees, may sponsor or participate in the establishment or operation of a community college (Education Law, 6301[3], 6302[1]). A local sponsor, such as a county, acts through its local legislative body or board when establishing or electing to participate in the establishment or operation of a community college (Education Law, 6302[1][a]).

Each county community college, except in the City of New York, is administered by a board of trustees of ten members (Education Law, 6306[1]; see Kuznetz v City of Nassau, 229 AD2d 476, 645 NYS2d 520). Section 6306 of the Education Law sets forth powers and duties of community college boards of trustees and county governing boards in connection with county community colleges (see also 8[B] NYCRR 604.1, 604.2). Among other things, the board of trustees of a community college may acquire by deed, gift, devise, bequest or lease, real or personal property suitable for carrying out the program and purposes of the college (Education Law, 6306[4]). In addition, the board has the care, custody, control and management of lands, grounds, buildings, facilities and equipment used for purposes of the college and all other property belonging to the college and used for carrying out its purposes, and has the power to protect, preserve and improve such property (id.; 8[B] NYCRR 604.2[5]).

No lands, grounds, buildings, facilities or equipment may be purchased or leased by the college board of trustees, however, unless an appropriation has been made by the local sponsor or sponsors or unless otherwise authorized by law (Education Law, 6306[4]). In addition, title to real property acquired by the board of trustees for the college shall vest in and be held by the local sponsor or sponsors in trust for the uses and purposes of the college (id.). The budget of the county community college, including the capital budget, is subject to the approval of the county governing board ( Education Law, 6306[2]; 8[B] NYCRR 600.2[a], 603.3), and contracts of the college, including capital construction contracts, are subject to county governing board approval (Education Law, 6306[7]; La Corte v County of Rensselaer, 80 NY2d 232, 590 NYS2d 26).

There is nothing in section 6306 or any other provision of law which authorizes a county community college board of trustees to issue indebtedness to finance construction of a dormitory.  Rather, the local sponsor of the county community college is responsible for providing local financing and is expressly authorized to issue bonds or notes pursuant to the Local Finance Law to finance the college's capital costs (Education Law, 6304 [1][c],[10][a]; see also Public Authorities Law, 1680; 8[B] NYCRR 600.2[a], 603.1). Therefore, the county governing board may authorize the issuance of indebtedness to finance capital projects of the community college as proper county purposes (Grimm v County of Rensselaer, 4 NY2d 416, 176 NYS2d 271; Local Finance Law, 2.00[4][a], 30.00; County Law, 150-a).

Accordingly, it is our opinion that the county governing board, and not the county community college board of trustees, may authorize the issuance of indebtedness to finance the cost of construction of a dormitory.

December 4, 1997
Ira J. Cohen, Esq., County Attorney
County of Sullivan