SHERIDAN — It ain’t broke, so please don’t try to fix it.
This was the main thrust of a strongly-worded ask by Sheridan County School District 1 Business Manager Jeremy Smith on Tuesday, when presenting to local legislators at the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce legislative forum.
“If the energy sector stays down for a period of time, people leave the state,” he said. “This is not our first rodeo, it’s not our first boom and bust. That’s what happens. And so the model self-adjusts but doesn’t affect the remaining students.”
Smith was referencing the funding formula for the state’s 48 school districts — a formula, he said, that works well for Wyoming’s energy-based economy.
But with three major components that factor into that calculation all headed south this year, Smith said additional cuts proposed by the Joint Appropriations Committee would create significant problems for the district. The JAC has proposed cutting school funding by 1 percent in the next budget year and 2 percent in the following year, in light of decreased revenue projections.
“But now you’re saying, ‘Do that and then oh, by the way, cut even more,’” Smith said. “That simply doesn’t make sense relative to the model you guys have constructed and administered very successfully over the past decade.”
If the proposed cuts are adopted by the full Legislature, SCSD1’s funding could decrease by roughly $388,000 in the next year and $538,000 in the following year. At a current annual budget of $15.5 million, that equates to roughly 2.5 percent and 3.5 percent cuts, respectively. These losses include both the proposed cuts and the decreases already expected based on certain funding formula components.
Smith stressed that district officials take no issue with the decreases already expected, because they are built into a formula that adjusts to reflect the ups and downs of the economy.
“The first two lines are going to happen naturally with how the model’s written,” Smith said in a phone call Friday, referencing enrollment funding and regional cost adjustment—which accounts for differing costs of living within Wyoming. “And we’ve got no beef with that.”
SCSD1 officials estimate that under JAC’s proposed cuts, they would need to downsize by five to 10 positions in the next year and three to five the next year.
“We aren’t certain [attrition] alone would be enough, it’s just too high of a number,” said Smith in an email exchange with The Sheridan Press. “We are still evaluating what positions those would be, but with that level of funding cut, it would affect admins, teachers and classified staff.”
If the full Legislature backtracks on this proposal and does not finalize such cuts, Smith said, the district would be able to manage all necessary staff reductions through attrition. Smith said he and Superintendent Marty Kobza would meet with district employees on Friday to discuss the budget outlook.
Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, sits on the JAC but could not be reached for comment.