Now that the Wyoming Legislature has passed House Bill 236, school districts are standing by to see if Governor Matt Mead will sign onto the $34 million in cuts to education funding for the upcoming school year. The House and Senate reached a compromise on the bill Friday in the final hours of the 2017 Legislative Session.
If Mead signs it, the hard work of figuring out what and who to cut will begin immediately for district school boards, administrators and business managers.
Don Dihle, Business Manager for the Campbell County School District, said they’re actually facing three sets of cuts: $34 million from House Bill 236, plus $22 million from the 2016 budget, plus an additional loss in funding because of a decline of almost 500 students in his district.
He said the Legislative Services Office is good about getting information out to districts quickly, and Dihle anticipated he would see preliminary numbers in the next week. At that point, the school board and district administrators would start making more exact budget calculations, but he said he knows they'll have to let staff go.
“Unfortunately the reality is that salaries and benefits make up 85% of our budget so the other 15% is difficult," said Dihle. "We will cut the non-staff elements of our budgets but there is just a limit of how much you can cut on things like utilities and fuel and books.”
And what do these reductions mean for kids?
“You know that’s a great question. I wish I knew the answer," Dihle said. "Obviously school districts will try to make cuts that are as far away from students and teaching and learning as possible, but in the end, we will probably have larger class sizes and some of the peripheral opportunities will be not as robust.”
Districts will have to act fast to respond to the decrease in funding. Staff contracts for the 2017 - 2018 school year are due in a little over the month. Dihle said that in some districts the cuts may even lead to school closures.