Western Board Passes $50M Budget

Western Board Passes $50M Budget

File photo

ROCK SPRINGS — The Western Wyoming Community College Board of Trustees passed a $50,172,120 budget for fiscal year 2023-2024 at their July 13 meeting. Board President James Jessen, Vice Presdent Kenneth Lorimer, Treasurer Stephen P. Allen, and Trustees Neil Kourbelas, Jenissa Meredith, and Ron Wild voted in favor of the budget. Board Secretary Regina Clark was absent from the meeting.

Broken down, the new fiscal year budget consists of the unrestricted operating fund of $29,447,872; one mill fund=$3,246,290; auxiliary fund=$3,361,152; designated fund=$806,281; BOCES fund=$1,414,039; miscellaneous restricted fund=$4,282,561; federal fund=$3,550,000; endowment fund=$180,310; agency fund=$67,675; plant fund=$3,330,940; and lease purchase financing fund=$485,000.

Should Look In-House Before Cutting a Check

Trustee Stephen P. Allen served notice that he does not believe that cutting a check is the solution to every problem. Allen’s was the only “nay” vote when the board approved a one-year contract with Dynamic Campus, a college and university consulting firm, to provide assistance to the Financial Aid Department, following the departure of the former Financial Aid Director, at a cost of $270,000.

Advertisement - Story continues below...

Allen said that Western should first look in-house among existing staff for qualified individuals to provide needed assistance to the Financial Aid Department, prior to authorizing any expenditure to hire outside help. Allen said he knew of at least two current Western staff persons who have prior experience in working with financial aid and who could provide any services that Dynamic Campus would be able to.

Later Allen criticized the fact that Western had just had a full accreditation “And yet we missed a hole in financial aid…Sometimes you have a hole and you’ve got to fill it.” Just cutting a check was not always the best way, the board treasure declared.

Western Vice President for Academic & Student Affairs Dr. Cliff Wittstuck presented the proposal to the Board and in response to questions from Lorimer he explained, “They (Dynamic Campus) are very open to learning how to do their jobs better.”

Western President Dr. Kim Custer Dale explained the need in the Financial Aid Department, “It is very, very important for us to have expertise immediately.”

In the end the other Board members found Allen’s arguments unconvincing and approved the one-year contract with Dynamic Campus.

Need vs Want

Allen also objected to the proposal to raise the Fiscal Year 2024 BOCES Mill Levy from .4 of one mill to .5 of a mill to fund specifically defined programs outlined in the budget, and scholarships. The .5 of a mill would be the maximum allowable.

“It’s not a need; it’s a want,” Allen said regarding the proposed measure. He contended that with property assessed values going up locally, the extra money could simply be obtained as a result of the forthcoming higher assessed property values, and that the higher mill levy would be unnecessary and an extra financial burden in addition.

Kourbelas joined Allen in voting “nay” to the .5 of a mill proposal. Jessen, Lorimer, Meredith and Wild voted to support the measure.

The mill levy is expected to raise $1,276,103 in FY24 for various programs at Western. The proposal for the mill levy states in part, “The levy is utilized to pay for the Sweetwater County Graduate Scholarship, dual enrollment tuition for Sweetwater County high school students, the GED completion scholarship, transition to college seminar for GED students, 30% of the Peer Tutor Center budget, and salary and benefits and operating expenses for the high school transitions coordinator for efforts expended for the benefit of Sweetwater County students.”

Other Actions

The Board gave unanimous approval to a proposal to purchase Element 451 software for updated recruitment and admissions usage. The proposal will  cost $56,100 during the first year of a 5-year contract, ultimately with a total cost of $294,133.

Part of the report recommending approval states, “Through improved communications and a more professional recruitment process, Western will see increased enrollment and retention. A more modern, professional appearance will appeal to prospective and current students to increase their confidence in the institution. Many processes will be streamlined to reduce workload and hours spent. Of these, communications, recruitment, application, and advising processes will see the most extensive reduction. Western will also leverage newer technologies such as account provisioning for students with secure delivery, fraud detection and prevention, and enhancements to communication such as texting, chat, and email automations.”

“I’m all for better software,” Kourbelas commented.

Western Athletics Director Lu Sweet provided trustees with a summary of athletic achievements over the past year, prior to the meeting, Highlights included mention of the national wrestling championship and academic achievements. The report cited seven Western student athletes who will be moving on to 4-year institutions for further competition: Hugo Ferreira and Franklin Agu in men’s basketball; Carson Jensen and Christian  Smoot in wrestling; Hannah Harris in women’s basketball; and Ally Collinwood and Shelby Steele in soccer, moving on to U-W and Colorado-Mesa, respectively.

A “practice squad” of non-roster athletes has been added for women’s basketball, and a practice squad in volleyball will be forthcoming.

The next Western Wyoming Community College Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled for August 10, 2023, at the Green River Campus.