Schools in Wyoming have been protected from the effects of the down economy because of a state requirement that education funding remain at a set level -- currently $1.477 billion over the next two years. The funding formula is based on district statistics, including enrollment, inflation and facility expenses. "If their local property taxes go down, then the entitlement goes up to make up for the loss in local resources," one official said.
Wyoming schools escape effects of down economy -- so far
By BOB MOEN - Associated Press writer
Tuesday, July 13, 2010 – CHEYENNE -- While most government agencies and programs struggle with budget cuts, Wyoming's public schools will face no out-of-the-ordinary changes in state funding during the coming school year.
"Schools are definitely under a different funding system than the cities and counties," said Fred Hansen, finance director of the state Department of Education.
A decline in the taxable value of Wyoming minerals and in sales tax collections because of the down economy have sapped state and local budgets of revenue, forcing some cuts in government workers and programs.
But Wyoming schools are immune for now from those economically driven cuts because they are guaranteed a set amount of money under the state's current formula for school funding.
Districts are slated to get $1.477 billion in state funding over the next two years, Hansen said.
Wyoming funds K-12 education from various sources, including a statewide property tax, federal mineral royalties and motor vehicle registration fees. The money is pooled and then distributed based on a formula that takes into account each school district's characteristics, such as number of students, school personnel, inflation and building costs.
"So each district is guaranteed a specific amount of funding based on their individual characteristics," Hansen said.
Even if local property taxes fall, the district still gets what the state formula determines is needed to cover its education costs, Hansen said.
"If their local property taxes go down, then the entitlement goes up to make up for the loss in local resources," he said.
However, if a district loses students, for instance, it could get less money, which would be the case regardless of the economy because the formula takes student numbers into account, Hansen said.
The state Legislature is currently reviewing the state school funding formula to see if any changes need to be made next year. The so-called recalibration is required every five years. The last review was in 2006.
Depending on any changes to the funding formula and whether overall state revenue is predicted to fall further in coming years, districts could see changes in state support in 2011-12, Hansen said.
However, in the past, the Legislature has supplemented school spending with general fund dollars, he said.