Volume 103, Number 19 - January 11, 2007
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Sublette Schools fight to the end for what they feel is their rightful money
A legislative committee has decided that Wyoming’s wealthiest school districts will get until March 15 to encumber excess property taxes generated by their mineral activities. After March 15, these districts will be cut off, and the money will go to the state’s School Foundation Fund.
In Sublette County, where over half of the expected $73.7 million in excess revenue is generated, school officials are not ready to accept this “arbitrary” date without trying to fight for their excess. “Our intentions are to go down fighting,” says Vern McAdams, the Business Manager for School District No. 1. “There’s too much money at risk.” “Any date in this fiscal year is a problem. We made our budget last July, like we’re supposed to, and now they’re telling us that plans we’ve made are invalid,” McAdams explained.
School District No. 1 had plans to invest in staff housing, and was looking at a football field project. Funding for these plans will not be available if Amendment B goes into effect in this fiscal year. “All of this was planned; all of this was encumbered,” argues McAdams, who will fight the legislature to leave this year’s funds alone, and put Amendment B into effect for the next fiscal year, when districts can plan accordingly.
“Twenty million dollars are at risk here,” says McAdams, for School District No. 1. Michael O’Donnell, who represents the school litigation section of the Attorney General’s office, told the Joint Interim Education Committee, who approved the reprieve, that Amendment B became constitutional law on Nov. 15, when election results were verified.
The Joint Interim Education Committee’s Chairman, Hank Coe (R-Cody), was concerned with the contractual agreements the wealthy districts may have by encumbering the excess moneys. The Committee voted 11-1 for the reprieve. McAdams argues that regardless if plans are contracted or not, they are encumbered if they are in the district’s budget for this year.
The Joint Interim Education Committee voted on the 90-day reprieve in order to give districts a grace period to take care of contractual obligations. McAdams says school officials from this district, and probably the other wealthy districts (including Fremont, Campbell, Carbon and Lincoln) will “work with the legislature to enact something more reasonable.”
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