- Associated Press - Friday, October 14, 2016

GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) - Campbell County public schools could lose about $5.4 million in state funding because of a drop in student enrollment caused mainly by the downturn in Wyoming’s energy industry.

Because state public school funding is based on a three-year rolling average of enrollment, the district won’t experience the full effects of a big drop in funding until three years from now.

Campbell County school administrators say they are using that time to look at ways to save money now in preparation for future budget cuts.

“We want to make sure we try to use a scalpel rather than an axe in making cuts,” Kirby Eisenhauer, assistant superintendent of instructional support, told the Gillette News Record (https://bit.ly/2e7wbts).

Enrollment in Campbell County was 9,177 on Oct. 1, 2015, before an economic downturn struck the energy industry. With layoffs in area oil, gas and coal industries, the district’s enrollment fell to 8,697 students on Oct. 3, ending more than a decade of growth.

That loss of 480 students also is the largest in the state and nearly half of the 1,020 students Wyoming schools lost between Oct. 1, 2015, and the start of school this fall, according to a survey conducted by a coalition of school districts in the state. The loss statewide may end up higher or lower overall, because five school districts didn’t participate in that survey.

Superintendent Boyd Brown said the district is in “as good as shape as we can be” going into an uncertain time.

Brown said the district has about $18 million set aside in cash reserves, about 90 percent of the amount the state allows school districts to set aside.

“We have contingency plans, too - all the way down to closing elementary schools and secondary schools if we have to,” he said.

The district already has cut nearly 33 full-time equivalent employees over the past year and left many positions vacant to cut costs. It doesn’t plan to offer any retirement incentives to reduce costs more, but school district trustees did unanimously pass an updated reduction in force policy in September.


Information from: The Gillette (Wyo.) News Record, https://www.gillettenewsrecord.com

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