Bowman gives Lander School Board a look at the upcoming year’s projected deficit

Fremont County School District 1 Board of Education met on Friday morning. (Joshua Scheer photo)

Fremont County School District 1 Board of Education met on Friday morning. (Joshua Scheer photo)

By Joshua Scheer, reporter,

(Lander, Wyo.) – Fremont County School District 1 Superintendent Mike Bowman told the Board of Education this morning that the district needs to find a way to make up roughly $1 million in next year’s budget.

He gave a presentation to the school board, which he said he’s given to all of the faculty and staff over the last couple weeks. He said the district is in a “pretty tight situation.”

Over the years, more teachers have been added, increasing cost by $700,000 a year. “With no adjustment from the state for three years,” Bowman said the district needs to tighten up and probably should have made some reductions in the past.

“We currently have a deficit of $307,000,” Bowman said looking at the start of the 2013-14 fiscal year. Additionally, he said the district needs to purchase new math materials totaling about $250,000. He argued that due to new language art curriculum coming in a couple years, the math material shouldn’t be delayed.

Bowman said he can’t know for sure, but he’s been told the district should expect a 10 percent, or $350,000, increase in health insurance.

With the insurance, new math materials and the previously mentioned deficits, the district is projected to be $907,000 in the red at the start of the next fiscal year. Bowman said if salary increases were approved, that would swell the projected deficit by and an additional $264,000, totaling $1,171,000 in deficit. Bowman said he’s told employees to likely not expect a raise next year.

More health insurance increases are expected in the coming fiscal years as well, he said, in addition to the expected need for an additional teacher in 2014-15 for Baldwin Creek Elementary, which will cost about $70,000 with all associated details.

Bowman continued to say that because their health insurance is tied with the state program, their reimbursement will likely decrease next year because they are estimating a decreases in costs. Another factor being considered is that the U.S. Census Bureau is reporting lower poverty numbers, which will lower the amount the district gets in Title 1 funds.

Despite the seemingly poor state of the numbers, Bowman said he and staff have currently identified about $700,000 in possible cuts for the next fiscal year. Part of that includes the decision to move Pathfinder High School from the Wyoming Life Resource Center to the vacated North Elementary building. That will save the district $48,000 at the current rent rate. Bowman noted however that the WLRC is raising their rates through direction from the Department of Health, and if the school stayed there it would cost $210,000 for one year.

Several positions being vacated will also not be filled, including a librarian and three elementary teachers. The drop in teachers is due to the number of classes that will change with the move into the new Gannett Peak Elementary School.

The board discussed the district’s reserve and enterprise accounts.

Trustee Ryan Hedges said he received several calls from teachers who had heard rumors that there would be no raises for four years.

“Mike stated it’s a worst-case scenario, ” Trustee Dave Clark said. “We just really don’t know what we’re going to end up with. It’s all an estimation. We need to be careful when that kind of stuff is out there. I got a phone call, and I don’t get called very much any more.”

Trustee Teresa Nirider didn’t like that rumors were spreading.

“I’m disappointed in the rumors that are circulating,” Nirider said, adding that they’re not good for anyone. “I hope those rumors go away.”

Chairman Brett Berg said he’d like to see the district get more or spend less on the swimming pool. Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Kirk Schmidt said swimming lesson prices were planned to be raised a little in the coming year.

Bowman also clarified that Lander Valley High School’s new parking lot coming in the summer is from the major maintenance fund and cannot be used in the general fund.