SD2 board takes final vote on budget reductions

The Board of Trustees for Big Horn County School District No. 2 finalized their action plan Monday night for around $500,000 in budget reductions that will go into effect over the next two years. The reductions are in response to a 3.8 percent decrease in school funding mandated by the Wyoming Legislature during its last two sessions.

The revised action plan became official after the trustees voted unanimously to accept changes to the district’s budget, tightening the belt in all areas, while at the same time, attempting to preserve programs directly related to student instruction. The vote was taken during the board’s regular monthly meeting at the district’s administrative offices, following a brief executive session. All seven trustees (Bruce Jolley, Dan Anderson, Danny Jolley, Hans Hawley, Stacy Bair, Rebecca Moncur and Marianne Grant) were present for the vote.

A special administrative team met earlier in the year to work up a preliminary action plan, presenting its recommendations to the board. Those recommendations were the basis of the district’s initial budget reduction action plan, which was posted on the district’s website in March. A series of meetings were held to discuss the plan, including a well-attended public input meeting that was held in March, along with two board work sessions that were also open to the public. An online survey regarding the plan garnered 130 responses from interested stakeholders.

Based in part on public feedback, a number of changes were made to the original action plan prior to the trustees’ vote, including the decision not to cut a full-time counseling position. According to District Superintendent Rick Woodford, the reaction by the public to cutting the position received, by far, the biggest response from stakeholders. Cutting the position would have saved the district $109,083. In order to offset the cost of maintaining the position, a number of other measures were put in place that were not in the original action plan.

These changes include reducing the curriculum director’s position from full-time to part-time, eliminating the summer school program at Lovell Elementary School for a savings of $43,503.42, reducing the Lovell Middle summer program by $7,322.98 and reducing the high school program by $11,718.75. According to Woodford, none of the after school programs will be affected.

The number of summer contract days allocated to the elementary and middle school counselors will also be reduced. The Lovell High School counselor will continue to work 20 extra days per year, in order to keep up with her current responsibilities of scheduling, sending and receiving transcripts and other school records requests and scholarship planning.

The final plan also freezes steps on all district salary schedules, with only qualifying lane changes honored. When the freeze is lifted, steps will not rebound to where they would have been to reflect the employee’s actual years of service. This action will save the district $51,000.

All items listed in the original action plan that will remain intact include a 5 percent cut to all budgets ($114,839), the elimination of the middle school librarian/ instructional facilitator ($88,395) and the elimination of a half-time nurse position ($30,940), the LES/LMS art teacher position ($79,399) and the Director of Special Education Services, which will save $146,570 in the first year and $70,000 – $120,000 in subsequent years.

The board also discussed areas that could be subject to future cuts, like transportation, which is no longer 100 percent reimbursable, additional cuts to select district budgets, cuts to athletic and technology programs, outsourcing of maintenance and grounds work, adjustments to salary scales and no longer funding the swimming pool.

“As the budget crisis continues to unfold in Wyoming, we know the legislature will likely make deeper cuts to the K-12 educational funding during the 2018 session,” said Woodford. “This list includes items that we can consider and begin trimming in order to be well-positioned for the future.”

By Patti Carpenter