GOSHEN COUNTY – Marcy Cates, Goshen County School District No. 1 business manager, presented to the board of trustees on Tuesday night about the district’s current budget structure and the possible effects of state-level cuts.
The board will not make any definitive budgeting decisions until it is clear how much needs to be cut once the legislative session nears its end in late March and early April. Legislative school funding recalibration and cuts will affect the general fund, Cates said, which is the district’s operating fund.
The School Foundation Program block grant funds the district based on different aspects of its composition, including enrollment or average daily membership (ADM), reimbursements from special education and transportation and more.
If the district carries over more than 15% of the amount granted, that amount goes back to the state for the next fiscal year.
The cap is in place to ensure Wyoming’s districts spend this money on students, but Superintendent Ryan Kramer said the onset of COVID-19 and other situations have created abnormal circumstances.
“I am very supportive of having a cap on that, but these two years are really unique situations we find ourselves in, and it handicaps schools for being fiscally responsible,” he said.
Cates said the district is seeing an $800,000 reduction in expenditures for fiscal year 2021, which means they will have to “get creative” in spending cash reserves, especially as CARES Act funds are set to come down from the state in the coming days.
“This is going to be a conversation we’re going to need to have, because nobody wants to send money back to the state,” Cates said. “We want that money to be spent on our students.”
Transportation is currently reimbursed at 100% by the state, whereas special education is capped at 2017-18 actual expenditures, Cates said. GCSD spends more on special education now than they did in those years.
“I can control transportation expenditures so much easier than I can control special education expenditures,” Kramer said. “Special education expenditures are specifically tied to individual students in relation to their individual education plans. The system we currently have doesn’t reward districts for (being fiscally responsible), which is challenging.”
State Sen. Cheri Steinmetz (R-Lingle) told the board the Senate Appropriations Committee is discussing school services and Medicaid billing to aid in special education reimbursements.
“We’re hoping that would free up some other dollars for education and we won’t have to reduce quite as much as we’re anticipating,” Steinmetz said.
Kramer said a similar system was in place in Iowa, where he used to work in education, and it makes “a significant impact.” Board member Kerry Bullington said Medicaid billing was a problem at Wyoming Child and Family Services because of a cap on the number of times Medicaid can be billed for a child.
“When you have a child who has special education, mental health and going to the doctor consistently, it was a race trying to get it in before the cap was met,” said Bullington, formerly a center coordinator at Torrington
The in-person legislative session begins March 1.
The possible budget reduction facing GCSD could total as much as $3 million, but nothing is set in stone until the legislative session is over.
“I don’t think any of the trustees are going to be comfortable making these decisions until we know what the cuts are going to be,” said board member Zach Miller.
Kramer said he has an extensive list of potential cuts, from worst to best case scenarios prepared with impact on students and staff in mind. The board will likely hold a special meeting at the end of March to address next year’s budget.
“It’s going to be the job of the trustees to determine what impacts we can lessen on the students,” Kramer said.
With rumors and confusion about the complicated legislative process, Kramer said he encourages GCSD staff and community members to contact him with questions.
The board will convene for their next meeting on March 2 at 7 p.m.