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TEXT-IN TOPIC: Who Should Pay For Wyoming’s Schools?

After one day of the 2018 Wyoming Legislative Session several proposals are already coming forward in regards to funding education in the Cowboy State.  One such proposal, Senate Joint Resolution 3, would change who is responsible for covering the cost of new school construction.

The bill would “amend the Wyoming Constitution to transfer responsibility to construct school facilities to school districts; to provide for specified mandatory and optional state funding mechanisms; and to provide a ballot statement.”

In short, the state would no longer fund new school construction, but rather the individual school districts would be responsible to pay for new schools within their district.  Those funds would come from bonds and levies voted on by the public, which most often results in a temporary increase in property taxes to fund the project.

The new Thayne Elementary building, along with Etna and Alpine, were paid for by the State of Wyoming using primarily bidding bonuses from new coal leases.

The resolution reads “The provision of school buildings and other capital facilities relevant to the education of the school children is the responsibility of the local school district.  For provision of school facilities, a district may submit a bond issue to the voters for approval.”

The state hasn’t always been responsible for paying for new construction.  Before 2001 new schools, including Star Valley High School, were funded by bonds and levies within the district.  However in 2001 the Wyoming Supreme Court decided in the case of State v. Campbell County School District that the provision of school facilities was the responsibility of the state, not the individual school district.  Senate Joint Resolution 3 states that “The system enacted by the legislature to comply with the Wyoming Supreme Court decision no longer works because the funding source the legislature relied on (primarily bidding bonuses from new local leases) no longer yields significant revenue.  The legislature also reports the new system has been quite expensive because the legislature is not as good a judge of the need for local school facilities as the voters of the school districts.”

Star Valley High School was built in the late 90’s before the state of Wyoming assumed responsibly of covering the cost of new school construction.

Tuesday morning during the Weekday Wake-up on SVI Radio (Swift 98.7 FM and Black Mountain Country 1210 AM) Duke & Dahl asked if listeners were apposed to or in favor of this change happening.  Should the state remain responsible for paying for new school construction, or should the voting tax base within the district pick up the tab?  Here are the listener responses.

In Favor

“I feel that when people don’t have a close connection to money being spent , they tend to not care how that money is spent. We have new schools in the district that I feel would not be here if we had to pay for them ourselves. The old schools could have served our needs fine with some good upkeep. So I think having money spending come back to the districts will help keep our spending in greater check.”

“I think the school district and local population should carry the burden of raising the funds. We tend to appreciate it more when we have to pay for it.  We talk about getting rid of “Big Government” but it won’t happen if we keep looking to them to pay for the things we want.”

Apposed

“Bad idea! In many small rural districts around the state there simply isn’t enough tax revenue available to fund the building and/or remodeling of modern educational facilities. They are very expensive!  Here in Star Valley we have too many absentee property owners and folks with no children in the schools. Tax levies will be a very hard sell. Just look at the multiple swimming pool attempts and failures.”

“NO to tax property owners!!! I’m an educator.  I feel it’s wrong to tax property owners. There are so many who aren’t property owners that won’t be contributing such as the trailer court, renters and those traveling from Montpelier to go to school here.”

“We would never get enough money in Star Valley or Cokeville to build any new schools without help from the state especially this day and age”

 

 

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