TORRINGTON – The numbers are preliminary, but it looks like Goshen County School District No. 1 is going to have to take care of the business of educating children with less help from state coffers.
Marcy Cates, business manager for the district, reported to the board of trustees on Tuesday the results of sweeping funding cuts to education made by the Wyoming Legislature during the recent session, which closed March 3. GCSD will have to shoulder its share of the $34.5 million in funding cuts state-wide, reducing its fiscal year 2017-18 coffers by almost $1 million.
For the current fiscal year, the district received almost $31.1 million in funding from three sources – the state’s School Foundation Guarantee, Instructional Facilitator grant and the BRIDGES program grant, which funds summer school and after-school programs, Cates said. Next year, when those three funding sources are combined into one pot, the district will get slightly than $30.1 million.
“We saw a lot of bills (dealing with education funding during the legislative session),” Cates said Tuesday. “We heard a lot of different things. What I have here today is preliminary.”
The largest funding source, the School Foundation Guarantee, chipped in the lion’s share of district funding at more than $30.3 million, she said. Instructional Facilitator grant funding totaled $414,339 last year, with the remaining $313,644 coming from the BRIDGES program.
Next year, those funding sources will be combined into one. On one hand, Cates said, that will allow the districts to decide how the money is spent. On the other hand, they’ll have less money to spend.
Specific areas of funding reductions next year include:
• Instructional materials, from $333.43 per pupil in elementary and middle school and $408.26 per pupil in high school to a blanket $191.37 per student.
• Assessment funding decreases from $37.70 to $25 per student.
• Technology funding decreases from $291.90 to $250 per student.
• Transportation funding is capped at an amount equal to the average of the 2014-15, 15-16 and 16-17 school/fiscal years.
“For instructional materials, we used to get money based on the grade level of students,” Cates said. “Now, they’re saying they don’t care what grade the students are in, you’re going to get $191 per student.”
Some funding areas will see a slight increase under the new model, she said. Funding for Gifted and Talented programs, for example, will increase from $29.19 to $40.29 and financing for professional development goes from $116.75 per student to $125.90.
Non-personnel expenses – supplies, etc. – in the district Central Administration also increases, from $350.28 per student to $365.86.
Per student numbers are based on average daily attendance within the school districts.
Cates said she’s particularly concerned about the cap on transportation funding. The three years being used for the averaged numbers saw less expense due to cheaper fuel prices, she said.
“That piece is difficult for me,” Cates said. “We don’t know what fuel costs will be in the future. I think they’re averaging low.”
She also listed several areas of potential cost savings already identified in the district. These include future reductions in technology funding, contracting out some part-time services and reductions in funding for new textbooks.
The list of savings options also included elimination of four positions by attrition, due to retirements or resignations, Cates said. That line item alone could save the district more than $351,000.
Overall, the potential areas of savings identified by district staff total more than $758,000. But that still leaves the district almost $250,000 short, she said.
“This is slim and trim,” Cates said. “This isn’t accounting for any increases in property or liability insurance, any increases in utilities.”
One concern districts around the state had during the debate on school funding was the apparent reticence to come up with new sources of revenue. One version of the legislation would have dipped into the state “rainy-day fund,” for example. But that provision was killed, leaving just funding reductions to deal with the $380 million state budget shortfall projected for next year.
“What we saw was cuts, but no new revenue sources, no new revenue streams,” Cates said. “It’s hard if all we’re doing is trying to cut expenditures and there’s nothing to offset any of that.
“Our fear is this is a one-year approach,” she said. “I’m afraid (cuts) next year will be even harsher than we’re seeing right now.”