The well is running dry for Wyoming’s community colleges and the commission that doles out their funding after Gov. Matt Mead announced another round of state budget cuts Tuesday.
The Community College Commission will absorb the $20 million cuts announced recently in various ways, including less money for college libraries to buy into research databases, reduced set-aside cash for employee insurance reimbursement and fewer tuition grants for nursing students and combat veterans.
Many are concerned that Wyoming’s revenues could continue to plummet below expected income, causing more budget reductions for education. That reality would leave the Community College Commission, and the seven community colleges in the state, no choice but to cut into the foundation of their mission. For the commission that means sending less money to colleges. For colleges that means losing programs, teachers and staff.
“Any further cuts whether by legislative or executive action could arguably be catastrophic,” the Wyoming Education Association said in a press release criticizing the cuts.
The commission was able to prioritize its cuts, given a target reduction by the governor’s office and choosing how best to reduce portions of their budget.
But the reductions this time around will touch a number of programs including high school equivalency and adult education. Those areas hit the same group of people who lost the Family Literacy Program, a $3 million per biennium program funded through the Commission cut earlier in the year by the Joint Appropriations Committee, said Matt Petry, the agency’s chief financial officer.
The Casper Family Literacy Center, which provided family education and free daycare for parents enrolled in adult education classes, laid off its all its workers in March.
The Commission identified $37,927 to cut from adult education, a reduction of about 1 percent of the program’s total budget.
“Ultimately, what it means for adult education is that the amount of funding that we will pass through to the local programs will be lower,” Petry said.
Federal funding for adult education has risen in recent years, which will help to offset the impact of the cuts, he added.
The state adult education program director was not available for comment by press time.
Other programs, like tuition reimbursement for nursing students who pledge to work in Wyoming after graduation, will be cut by 24 percent. Administration will be cut by about $100,000.
Community colleges are paid for largely in two ways: state money from the Commission and local mineral and property taxes.
With the energy industry declining across Wyoming, community colleges are already feeling the pinch in their budgets as local tax dollars dry up in most counties.
Legislative cuts and local revenue decreases resulted in $1.9 million less per year for Central Wyoming College. After Mead’s additional 8 percent reduction, the college said it could not weather the cuts solely through cutting operations. In May, it announced it would restructure departments, cut personnel and eliminate vacant positions.
Eastern Wyoming College is in much the same position, having created a budget that will get the school through the next year, said Ron Laher, vice president of administrative services.
The school has already laid off staff and cut employee hours. Any further cuts will force the school’s hand, he said.
“Basically, we would be affecting personnel,” he said. “But we’d also be affecting programs, making vertical cuts to programs. We’ve been able to avoid that so far.”
[Source:- Star Tribune]