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Bulletin photo by Ethan Weston 

A proposed external cost adjustment for K-12 public schools in Wyoming was cut from a recommended $70 million to $43 million by the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee. 

That recommendation no longer contains funding to help districts pay for education materials or energy and electricity in school buildings, but it does contain funding to help districts support both professional and nonprofessional staff. 

An external cost adjustment is funding provided to school districts “to reflect the changing costs of resources” between years when the Legislature contemplates adjustments to the education funding model, according to a report from the Legislative Service Office.

The recommendation from the appropriations committee this year said that the $43 million should only be sustained by the Legislature for one year. 

Charles Auzqui, Johnson County School District No. 1 superintendent, said that while “anything helps,” he’s disappointed that the current recommendation wouldn’t provide what he feels is necessary to make up for a deficit between school districts’ operations and the amount received through the state funding model. 

In fact, he said that it will likely just continue to widen the deficit as operational and personnel costs continue to increase. 

“We’re now funding less than what we’re supposed to, whereas three or four years ago, we were way above the model,” Auzqui said. 

Despite the cut to the recommended ECA amount, Auzqui said that a main focus of the district is always on staff members, so he is pleased that the recommended funding would go toward supporting professional and nonprofessional staff. 

That could help the district pay for the difference between what they offer as starting teacher salaries and the amount those salaries are funded by the state. 

“The average base salary in this region is anywhere from $44,000 to $48,000, but yet the state only gives us $38,000 in the model,” Auzqui said. “We need to clear that discrepancy up. If we want to talk about the importance of an ECA, that ECA is always just trying to make up for that deficit.” 

While the $43 million recommendation was approved by the appropriations committee, the final recommendation won’t be made official until it is unveiled by the governor during the next legislative session. 

Until then, Auzqui said, the district will continue to deal with cost increases in operations nearly across the board. 

“There was obviously a reason why the ECA was included in the funding models, because they know that’s part of the economy,” Auzqui said. “We’ve never seen things go down.” 

Ryan Hanrahan joined the Bulletin in October 2020 and covers schools, agriculture and county government. If you have ideas or feedback, reach out at ryan@buffalobulletin.com.

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