RANCHESTER — Sheridan County School District 1 superintendent Marty Kobza outlined ways to solve the state’s education budget deficit at Tuesday’s district board meeting.
Kobza said he recently was on a legislative panel to discuss education finances and was at a recalibration committee last week, where he believes the deficit amount was exaggerated. He said a new Consensus Revenue Estimating Group report coming at the end of the month will show that the biennium deficit is less than $500 million.
Furthermore, Kobza said the state doesn’t have a revenue issue, it has a disbursement issue. He said around $1 billion of state money is not counted in the budget.
That money comes from interest earned on the state’s investment portfolio ($750 million to $900 million, according to Kobza) and leases on school lands (about $100 million). Using only that money, the education deficit would easily be covered for the next two years, Kobza said.
He also discussed the approximate $1.4 billion in the Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account, often referred to as the “rainy day fund.” He said that about $200 million is put into the fund each year, so even if the state uses $250 million per year from the LSRA, that will cover the education deficit for at least the next 20 years.
Kobza said it will be important to talk with legislators about $1 billion not accounted for in the budget, and if any of it can be used to deal with the deficit. He acknowledged that he wasn’t sure if the $250 million annual deficit will increase or decrease going forward, but the state has to seriously weigh when to save and when to spend.
“We have to ask ourselves, ‘What’s enough to have in savings?’” Kobza said.
The other main discussion item was the news from Kobza that the AdvancED accreditation team left the district last week with recommendations for full accreditation. Kobza said the district’s strengths included curriculum assessment systems and curriculum website. The only area for improvement was in formatting the district’s strategic plan. The district will get the official accreditation report in about two weeks.
Kobza also reported that Big Horn High School was recently named the top high school in Wyoming by Money magazine for the second time in three years.
The next board meeting is Nov. 20.