The Saratoga Sun -

Cuts possible for CCSD2

With State fiscal shortfall looming, Carbon County School District No. 2 looking at potential cuts

 

November 4, 2020



As the Wyoming Legislature prepares to face down a substantial budget deficit and following significant departmental budget cuts from Governor Mark Gordon, school boards across the state are having to examine their own budgets. In the case of Carbon County School District No. 2 (CCSD2), a potential 16 percent cut in funding could come in the form of reduced personnel.

During the October 19 meeting of the CCSD2 Board of Trustees, both the board and CCSD2 Superintendent Jim Copeland discussed a letter sent from the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration requesting school districts respond with impacts from the expected budget gap.

“Based on current revenue and expenditure projections, the Wyoming Legislative Service Office estimates the budget gap for the current fiscal year 2021-2022 biennium for the School Foundation Program Account is approximately $515 million,” the letter read. “The $515 million budget gap equates to approximately 16 percent of the estimated funding from the state’s School Foundation Program for the fiscal year 2021-2022 biennium.”

Copeland cited the collapse of both coal and oil industries within Wyoming and previous cuts made by Gordon. 

“K-12 has kind of been untouched up until now because the two year budget was already approved,” said Copeland. “It’s tied into the recalibration because this is the year that recalibration is done and, basically, that’s deciding what our educational model, finance model, should look like. What should be included in the basket of goods that we’re required to provide as public schools.”

According to Copeland, a 16 percent cut to the budget for CCSD2 would be approximately $2,340,637.

“So, if we’re just looking at a cut of that magnitude, then there’s no way that’s not going to affect personnel positions because 78 percent of our budget is, according to Sally (Wells), personnel costs,” Copeland said. “So there’s not enough in the rest of that to cut and a lot of that in the rest of the budget, that’s non-personnel and is really nothing you could cut.”

Copeland added that expenditures such as utilities and insurance were included in the parts of the budget that couldn’t be cut as those costs either stayed the same or increased.

“So, really, the 16 percent cut is almost going to have to be more percent in personnel than the 16 because if you just cut the 16, then you’re just thinking you can cut 16 percent of everything else, too, and that’s not reasonable nor is it possible,” said Copeland.

The superintendent informed the Board of Trustees that CCSD2 was unique in that it was one of the few school districts whose budget was close to the funding model from the State of Wyoming. He added that, while the school district was at 100 percent of the model in paying teachers and 101 percent of the model in paying principals, they were below the state average in every personnel category. That, however, wouldn’t prevent CCSD2 from having to make difficult decisions in the case of simply cutting from the budget.

“Bottom line is, we would have to cut some teaching positions and it would increase class sizes. We would be combining some grades we haven’t had to combine in our smaller schools and/or in secondary, it would also increase class sizes and/or lose programs. That’s probably the standard across the state as far as cutting personnel positions,” Copeland said. “We’re just making those points. I think the recalibration wanted kind of a worse case scenario in cuts to publicize how this is going to affect schools.”

As discussion continued, other alternatives provided by the recalibration committee were raised. One was the use of the state’s “rainy day fund” to help close the budget gap, which is expected to increase by $400 million by the 2023-2024 biennium. Another alternative was looking at other tax revenues. A document compiled by the Wyoming Legislative Service Office examined the different taxes and rates in Wyoming compared to the median rate of surrounding states.

That document, which can be found on the Wyoming Legislature website, examined potential revenues from the implementation of an individual income tax and a corporate income tax, both at 4.95 percent, while increasing existing taxes such as sales and use tax, residential, commercial and industrial ad valorem (property) taxes and fuel taxes.

In the case of implementing an individual income tax, it was estimated that $147 million would be raised in both Fiscal Years 2023 and 2024 while $14.2 million would be raised in those same years through a corporate income tax. With those implemented taxes and adjusted rates to existing taxes, it is estimated that $818 million could be generated in Fiscal Year 2023 and $836.3 million in Fiscal Year 2024.

Copeland stated that the Legislature appeared to be looking at a “three-pronged” approach in which cuts were combined with additional revenues. The superintendent additionally stated that the recalibration committee would likely be looking closely at how to make cuts to the budget without removing funding from the education model applied by the State of Wyoming.

“If we’re going to reduce the state budget, then the basket of goods of what we’re required to provide students should be looked at closely and somewhat reduced because it just doesn’t seem logical to require the same amount of everything and yet reduce how you’re going to pay for it,” said Copeland. “It won’t be a fun few years to figure out the budget. We’ll see where all this goes. It’s early, the legislature hasn’t even started. We’ll know a lot more as time goes on.”

The next meeting of the Carbon County School District No. 2 Board of Trustees will be at 5 p.m. on November 16 at the Central Office in Saratoga.

 

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