A funding crisis brought on by a downturn in the coal industry has left policy makers struggling to figure out how to fund education. This year school districts took a hit of $34 million to their operating budgets.
That’s primarily money for teachers and staff, as well as materials and supplies. But the funding for school construction and maintenance is also running out.
At a recent meeting on school finance, Matt Willmarth, senior school finance analyst with the Legislative Service Office, gave an update on the status of the School Capital Construction Account. Wyoming typically spends over $200 million per biennium on capital construction and maintenance. The bulk of that funding has traditionally come from coal lease bonuses, which Willmarth told policy makers is a problem because, “There are projected zero coal lease bonuses going forward.”
And Willmarth put forward some critical questions for legislators to consider. “So what revenue source will be identified? How are you going to fund your major maintenance and capital construction projects through the capital construction account?” asked Willmarth.
That issue was taken up again Monday at the Select Committee on School Facilities. Albany County Senator Chris Rothfuss said no final decisions were made, but the committee discussed alternate revenue sources and considered prioritizing maintenance over the construction of new facilities.