The high cost of living and growing enrollment seems certain to increase Teton County School District No. 1’s block grant funding from the state for fiscal year 2018.

But by how much is still unclear. Early estimates indicate the district might receive $2.5 million to $3.1 million more than 2017, but district administrators caution it is still too soon in the budgeting process to know for sure. The majority of the increase will probably be spent on teacher salaries.

The current budget is about $48 million.

“Nearly 86 percent of our budget goes to staff salaries,” Superintendent Gillian Chapman said. “And we recognize that our greatest asset is our highly trained and qualified staff. Our students can only thrive when the staff serving them are at their best.”

The state allocates a regional cost of living adjustment for all districts but stipulates that it is used for staff salaries. The adjustment is calculated on a yearly average, so Executive Director of Resources Kristen Voorhees said it does not reflect the current climate and therefore might not be enough to actually cover how expensive it is to live in the valley.

The block grant from the state also increased due to increasing student enrollment. The district is funded by the state on a per-student basis, and Teton County is lucky to be one of few districts in the state with increasing enrollment. The preliminary draft amount of funding per student for fiscal year 2018 is a little more than $17,200.

A lot of unknowns

Four months ago the Wyoming Legislature debated how to deal with a projected $400 million shortfall in the next fiscal year. Legislators came out of the session with only $34.5 million in cuts statewide and having formed a committee to discuss additional funding solutions this summer.

District staff say they will still need to make cuts but do not know where those cuts will be made.

“While our block grant has increased, the district still has to make reductions in order to meet the budgetary reductions required by the legislative action,” Chapman said.

What those reductions will be is still unclear as staff sort out finances and crunch the numbers.

Estimated fiscal year 2018 draft expenditures presented to the board of trustees on April 12 were later deemed by Voorhees as “a very rough draft” with numbers that would be “misleading and inaccurate to use” at this point.

District staff said they will be able to provide more specifics as the budget is worked through in coming months. Additional factors adding to budgetary uncertainty include kindergarten enrollment for next year and the potential the school funding model might be recalibrated, or changed, this summer, which would affect the fiscal year 2019 budget.

Too early to talk specifics

Voorhees said in an email that “it is much too early in the budget process to state the amounts and specific areas that the Board of Trustees may choose to cut in the FY 2018 budget. Staff presents options for trustees to consider as part of the budget approval process. We are in the initial stages of the budget process and we will be able to address this question more fully in the next couple of months.”

Savings suggested in the past include consolidating part-time positions into a full-time position, not rerehiring for positions open because of attrition and assigning additional responsibilities to other positions.

Other ideas brought up in an April board workshop included reducing elementary and middle school administrative days from 221 to 211, eliminating 10 days of paid maternity or paternity leave, cutting two professional days or reducing sick day buy back — which Voorhees cautioned could have a reverse effect.

The district’s board of trustees has a schedule laid out for the budgeting process. Staff plan to meet with administrators during the rest of April and have a draft budget complete by May 5. From there, the refinement process will begin and continue through the May and June board of trustees meetings with various drafts being presented.

The fiscal year 2018 budget needs to be approved during the July board of trustees meeting and sent to the Wyoming Department of Education by July 21.

Contact Kylie Mohr at 732-7079, or @JHNGschools.

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