Natrona County School District Still Braces For Hard Times
The Natrona County School District is preparing for long-term fiscal adjustments even as it awaits the Legislature's decisions about statewide education funding.
"We're still probably a few days away from knowing what the full impact will be," District Superintendent Steve Hopkins said after the trustees' semimonthly meeting.
The district has known for two years it will probably take a $10 million to $12 million hit over the next three years based on declining revenue projections, Hopkins said.
The severity of those cuts depends on what the actions of the Legislature, which is expected to finish its general session Friday.
As of Tuesday afternoon, two education funding bills are still active: House Bill 236, which among other things would cut transportation funding. That would affect extracurricular activities such as music and sports.
The other bill is the supplemental budget bill affecting all state funding.
Tuesday, the House allowed Senate File 165 to die by not meeting a deadline for the vote. SF 165 would have reduced their state block grants by 5 percent by the end of the decade.
Whatever happens, the Natrona County School District has been preparing by starting to shrink two years ago, Hopkins said. "That's a reality when we became aware the state would have less revenue for K-12. The trustees felt it was just prudent to begin that process."
At the trustee's work session on Monday, Dave Applegate suggested continuing the process.
That aligns with some legislators' proposals to smooth the transition of the revenue cuts over several years so the districts can adjust, Hopkins said. "That's real critical when we try to meet one of our primary interests, which is to avoid layoffs, to shrink the district through retirements, resignations, attrition, reassignment -- those type of things."
The district usually crafts one-year plans, but the Hopkins and the trustees proposed a three-year conceptual budget to phase in the revenue shortfalls.
Payroll comprises about 85 percent of the district's budget. The district employs about 2,500 people, he said.
However, Hopkins declined to say how a $10 million to $12 million reduction in funding would affect the district's work force. "Until that three-year conceptual budget is built, I'm not really in a position to talk the quantities, because it could be more skewed towards non-personnel being adjusted down."