Natrona County School District Faces Severe Cuts in Staff, Programs
The state committee in charge of allocating money to schools asked the Natrona County School District what a 16% budget reduction would do.
A draft letter to the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration from the district's trustees responded that it would be about $31.5 million, or the elimination of 384 full- and part-time staff.
"It's a scary letter," Debbie McCullar said during a trustees work session Monday.
It gets scarier.
For example, the district will review all its programs including the certified tutoring model with 57 certified tutors at a cost of $5.5 million. The tutors provide instruction inn intervention to the most at-risk students who need help with literacy and math skills, according to the draft letter signed by Trustee Chairwoman Rita Walsh. "The loss of tutoring services would negatively impact individual students' success, graduation rates, school accountability performance, and workforce readiness."
And if that's not scary enough, the district already is facing a reduction in revenue for the 2021-2022 school year. State funding to districts is based on their numbers of students, and the Natrona County School District is looking at a decrease of 637 students, or close to $5 million.
Those reductions, plus changes to other programs would amount to an estimated loss of $45.3 million, according to the letter. "A budget reduction of this scale would require NCSD to eliminate 23% of its personnel and non-personnel budgets."
Walsh noted that the district knew in 2015 that the state would face a major budget shortfall because of the downturn in the energy industry. The district closed six schools, reduced division and department budgets by 15% and eliminated about 150 positions.
It's much worse now.
Gov. Mark Gordon said Monday a state financial report showed a General Fund shortfall of $451.1 million and a school funding shortfall of $300 million,
During the work session, trustees agreed with nearly all the points Walsh made.
However, Dave Applegate recommended deleting a sentence that said, 'It appears evident the problem cannot be solved with a focus solely on revenue reductions and cuts to school districts."
Applegate said that was political, even though he and other trustees may agree with that. Raising revenue is the job of the Legislature, he said.
They discussed what sorts of solutions could be proposed, with Kevin Christopherson saying he tunes out when he gets a letter with a bunch of complaints.
McCullar suggested getting rid of the statewide tests, which could save millions of dollars.
Clark Jensen suggested the letter could mention a couple of things to reduce expenses.
Ray Catellier said he liked the letter, and suggested the final version should say the district will follow up with some recommendations.
McCullar said fhe select committee meets again on Nov. 17, so the next letter should go in before that.
Walsh said the letter will go out Tuesday.
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