ROCK SPRINGS — Facing the possibility of cutting 10% from its annual budget due to statewide shortfalls, Sweetwater County School District No. 1 will be creating a cost-savings task force to address the issue.
Board of Trustees Chairperson Carol Jelaco outlined the challenging scenario facing districts across the state at the board’s first monthly meeting since the restart of school tonight.
Jelaco, Superintendent Kelly McGovern, and Chief Financial Officer Scot Duncan testified before the state’s Select Committee on Recalibration last week. Jelaco said districts have been asked to voluntarily cut 10% of their overall budgets in order to adjust to Wyoming’s overall financial shortfall.
McGovern testified last week that a 10 percent cut in SCSD No. 1 would be roughly 90 teachers in the district. Jelaco said that amounts to 3/4 of the entire high school teaching staff.
Task Force Recruitment
SCSD No. 1 is down 282 students this year compared to last year, Jelaco said. That in itself constitutes a 5 percent decrease in the student body and a 5 percent cut in overall statewide funding for the district.
“The model self-corrects. If you don’t have the students, you don’t get the money.”SCSD No. 1 Board Chair Carol Jelaco
Now the district is tasked with finding another 5 percent to cut from the budget over the next year. In an effort to do that, the board is asking business leaders, parents, and other community members to step up and join the task force.
Board members John Bettolo and Matt Jackman volunteered to serve on the task force representing the trustees. Jelaco said the district will also reach out to staff and students to become part of the task force as well.
McGovern said the district was faced with a similar situation several years ago and encouraged the task force to implement some of the steps that worked well at that time.
“These are going to be some very difficult discussions, but these are conversations we’ll take back to our state legislators and say ‘yes this is what our community is willing to do’,” said Jelaco.
She added that “it’s just talk right now,” but some of the new representation in the Wyoming Legislature has already said it won’t support new taxes.
But Jelaco said there’s got to be some sort of revenue coming in from somewhere. She said there’s been discussion about a one-cent sales tax increase statewide dedicated solely to education.
“There’s a realization that some of the energy that we relied on for years, particularly coal, is not coming back,” she said. “We have some legislators out there who are waiting for the next boom. But unfortunately, I don’t see one on the horizon.”
Bettolo said this task force could have a two-fold benefit for the district.
“One, they can help us prioritize. But the second thing they can do is hear the truth,” he said. “And they can bring that truth to their groups and their community.”
Board member Stephanie Thompson said the last time SCSD No. 1 faced this type of situation it was recognized by the state for the model it used.
She suggested the district follow similar steps in addressing the shortfall issue in 2021.