budget cuts

John Wilhelm

On the eve of graduation weekend, President Laurie Nichols announced to the Board of Trustees that 37 University of Wyoming staff members would lose their jobs to meet budget cuts.

All across campus, staff were working to get the class of 2017 graduated and onto their next venture. But there were questions in the air about how the state’s only public university is holding up.

The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees oversaw reductions in both staff and degree programs during its May meeting.

President Laurie Nichols announced to the Board of Trustees on Thursday that 37 university staff will lose their jobs heading into fiscal year 2018. Specific departments facing staff reductions have not been publicly announced, but Nichols told the trustees that notifications will go out next week.

University of Wyoming

University of Wyoming trustee meetings this week have many on campus awaiting a mixture of bad news and clarity. While a plan for a $10 million budget reduction for fiscal year 2018 was released in November, the details have been murky. To meet the proposed cuts, close to 50 layoffs are on the table, according to UW spokesperson Chad Baldwin.

A report prepared for this week’s meetings has brought more budget cut details to the surface. It shows The Outreach School and Athletics department will see the largest percentage of funding cuts, but no program is left untouched.

University of Wyoming

As the University of Wyoming faces steep budget cuts, the university community is revisiting which programs are core to the land grant mission. To a lot of people, it feels like the humanities are at odds with the sciences, and both of them are at odds with applied disciplines. But one English professor has taken a look at the history of the land grant university and found that none of that is quite true.

University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming is on the verge of its first round of layoffs due to state funding reductions. This comes after the Wyoming State Legislature voted to cut the university’s biennial budget by $41 million last year.

The first round of budget reductions eliminated close to 300 positions, but according to Chad Baldwin, Associate Vice President for Communications and Marketing, those were not layoffs. He said the university has so far accomplished reductions by not filling vacated positions and by offering early retirement incentives.

University of Wyoming

K-12 education in Wyoming is facing immediate cuts on the state level and President Trump’s federal budget proposes cuts to education too. There’s even talk in Washington of dismantling the U.S. Department of Education. This got me wondering how University of Wyoming education students were feeling about their future in teaching. 

The question prompted a nice spring stroll across the University of Wyoming’s campus. Our studios are just across Prexy’s Pasture from the College of Education.

Office of Governor Matt Mead

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.

Bob Beck

A downturn in the energy economy has caused a crisis in Wyoming education funding. K-12 funding is projected to see a $400 million shortfall at the end of the current two-year budget cycle.

That deficit will grow if lawmakers can’t find a way to address the shortfall, but the House and Senate are taking different approaches towards solving the problem. During an interview Senate Education Chairman Hank Coe of Cody repeated a sentence that’s become a cliché this session.

Department of Energy

Wyoming's budget deficit has forced the University of Wyoming to reduce spending. Dr. Anne Alexander, Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Education, said "at this point every possible thing that’s 'discretionary' has been cut. There are departments without phones, larger classes, hiring freezes, and increased teaching loads."

The House Education Committee will welcome public comments on the Omnibus Education Bill on Monday at 6 p.m.

In anticipation of a large turnout, Representative David Northrup requested the meeting take place at the Cheyenne East High School Auditorium.

He said it’s because: “We anticipate having a lot of district personnel show up and ask questions. I am probably expecting 300 to 400 people.”

This exceeds the capacity of legislature’s temporary home in the Jonah Building.

In late December the Joint Education Committee released potential solutions to the K-12 education funding deficit. In the week-long public comment period that followed, the legislature received close to 600 comments.

The Wyoming School District Coalition for an External Cost Adjustment came out in support of comprehensive approach taken by the Subcommittee on Education Deficit Reduction Options, but expressed concern that the process was happening too fast. 

Wyoming Department of Education

Wyoming has seen its first drop in student enrollment in more than a decade according to data collected by the state Department of Education. Districts lose money when enrollment declines. The good news is that enrollment funding is based on a three year rolling average.

Department of Education Communications Director, Kari Eakins, said that gives school districts a little bit more time to make wise cuts.

Bob Beck

 

It’s been a rough year for state officials. A greater than expected revenue decline last spring forced lawmakers to cut $67 million out of existing budgets, and the governor was forced to follow-up with an additional $250 million. While revenues are starting to show some moderate improvement, lawmakers will soon be debating the wisdom of even more cuts, especially as a revenue shortfall for education looms.

Bob Beck

 

After several months of budget cuts, it was a surprise to some that the governor did not propose any more reductions in his supplemental budget. He will present that budget to the legislature’s joint appropriations committee on Monday. Prior to that meeting the governor agreed to join Bob Beck to discuss his budget strategy.

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead says the state’s biggest future budget concern is K-12 education funding. During a news conference discussing his current budget request, the governor said school funding could face a shortfall of over $600 million in the next budget cycle.  

To address the issue the governor is once again pushing to create a task force that would focus on school funding issues. He said the task force needs to include parents and educators.              

Bob Beck

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead unveiled a mostly flat supplemental budget that features no new budget cuts.

The governor is proposing limited spending, using only a small portion of the legislature’s rainy day fund for things like Title 25 that addresses those with mental health issues, and a contingency fund for corrections. He put forth bonding as a way to fix problems with the prison in Rawlins.  

The Wyoming Legislature's Joint Education committee is drafting two pieces of legislation that could significantly reduce the amount of money that school districts get through the school funding model.  

One would raise the class sizes in the funding model, which would lead to the reduction of millions of dollars that currently flow to school districts. Sweetwater County School District two is based in Green River. 

University of Wyoming

University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols unveiled the proposed budget cuts for Fiscal Year 2018 at a town hall meeting Wednesday. The cuts total about $10 million, with nearly $6 million of that coming from division cuts, and the rest through retirement incentives, eliminating vacancies on campus, and increased efficiency. The cuts do not include layoffs.

President Nichols said there was talk of cutting up to $15 million, but the consensus was to go a more conservative route and adjust later if the state decides to cut the university budget further.

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Enrollment is down slightly this fall at the University of Wyoming. UW officials say that enrollment declined by 234 students compared to fall of last year. The decrease startled Sara Axelson, Vice President of Student Affairs, who said the decrease was due to fewer out of state students.

Maggie Mullen

Wyoming’s economic downturn has decreased the amount of money the state gives to local governments at a time when many counties were already facing local revenue losses.

Johnson County Treasurer Carla Faircloth said her county's assessed valuation is down more than anywhere else in the state. Natrona County Sheriff Gus Holbrook said he has had to cut five positions and he predicts that may increase emergency response time.

Natrona County Coroner Connie Jacobson said like most agencies, her department is learning to do more with less.

University of Wyoming

This week University of Wyoming officials proposed cutting 16 academic programs in order to meet a $15 million budget cut required for the next fiscal year. 

University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols notes that they are also looking at consolidating some programs and so in total she says they are actually looking at 8 to 10 program eliminations. 

Bob Beck

Earlier this year the Wyoming legislature cut $36 million from money they provide to school districts. Since that time districts have been trying to get that money back and convince lawmakers that additional cuts would hurt their ability to adequately teach students.  

University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming says it is considering the elimination of six bachelor’s degrees, eight master’s degrees, and two doctoral degrees as part of its mandated budget cuts. 

Bachelor’s degrees recommended for elimination are: American Studies, Russian, energy systems engineering, art education, modern language education, and technical education.  

Department of Education

Over the last several weeks we’ve gotten lots of information concerning testing of students. Some were more positive than others. To get a full assessment of how students are doing we turn to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow.

Bob Beck

Many programs on the University of Wyoming campus are facing budget cuts, but there are those who believe that academics is suffering more than it should.

That’s especially when compared to athletics. In public forums several faculty and staff members say they want athletics de-emphasized at the University. The reason is because they think it costs a lot and is not priority. 

Stephanie Joyce

In fiscal year 2016, the University of Wyoming’s utility bill was $10.8 million—almost $2 million more than fiscal year 2015. Next year, as new buildings under construction come online, that bill is likely to increase, even as the University faces $41 million in budget cuts. That means there may be hard choices ahead—keep the lights on, or keep people employed.

The University of Wyoming broke records last year for private donations, with total gifts in fiscal year 2016 totaling $63.1 million. 

The record year comes amid a major downturn in the energy sector, the state’s number one industry. 

“Let me just say, [it] could not be better timing,” said Ben Blalock, president of the University of Wyoming Foundation. 

Blalock said they didn’t expect the increase, but that when you look at where private giving comes from it is less surprising.

Liam Niemeyer

Due to Wyoming’s economic downturn, a number of state agencies have been required to cut their budgets to make up for a revenue shortfall that could reach $300 million. Among the cuts is $1 million that the Wyoming Department of Corrections uses for substance abuse treatment. 

At the same time, the Wyoming Department of Health is cutting funding for local substance abuse treatment. Some worry the cuts could harm those in and out of the prison system.

University of Wyoming

 

Wyoming President Laurie Nichols started her job on a Monday, the Monday after the Friday when Governor Matt Mead told the UW trustees that they must whack an additional $35 million from the University budget. The state’s fiscal downturn has led to a $41 million cut from the UW budget.

Bob Beck, Wyoming Public Radio

University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols said that planned budget reductions for this fiscal year may fall short of goals. So, she told the UW trustees Wednesday to plan for $15 million dollars in budget cuts in the next fiscal year.

They had hoped to only cut $10 million, but UW has not yet realized forecast savings in early retirements or by increased teaching loads. The University is currently looking at cutting a variety of academic and non-academic programs after being told it would receive $40 million less in revenue over the next two years. 

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