Campbell County Schools Facing Declining Enrollment, Potential Budget Cuts
One of the more hotly contest topics of the 2016 Wyoming legislative session has proved to be a potential $45 million cut to education spending in the state.
While the Senate approved the decreased spending by not passing any education-related budget amendments, the House did pass two such measures, which could restore all or a portion of the funding — a matter that will head to conference committee in the near future.
If the Legislature ultimately cuts spending, Sen. Jeff Wasserburger, R-Gillette, said the funding decline might not hit schools as hard as the headline-making figure, $45 million, suggests. The money, after all, will be spread out over two years and between 48 school districts.
Even still, he added, the loss would be felt by schools — particularly schools like those found in Campbell County. The model the Joint Appropriations Committee came up with calls for a $45 million cut to external cost adjustment dollars. This money goes to schools based largely on enrollment.
During an energy bust like Wyoming is experiencing right now, mineral-rich counties like Campbell tend to lose students and therefore funding.
“Right now, my school district, just in kindergarten registration alone, is down 110 students,” Wasserburger said. “If you do the math on that, and I’m not sure exactly what Campbell County gets per student, but it’s around $15,000. That’s $1.7 million less for the district.”
How that sort of loss — coupled with the $45 million cut — could affect Gillette schools remains to be seen, depending on what the Legislature decides and future school board decisions.
All in all, though, it doesn’t look like this will be the final time legislators debate decreases to educational funding, since financial projections show declining revenues in Wyoming for years to come. Wasserburger said forecasts predict a $600 million shortfall in K-12 funding each year of the 2019-2020 biennium.