City council OKs plan making rec spending fairer to state students

Apr 18, 2014 By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The Riverton city council has approved a resolution supporting a move to make recreation spending more equitable for Wyoming students.

State law allows local school districts to levy one mill to help fund local recreation service. Some people argue that the system is unfair, however, because in smaller districts, each child gets a bigger chunk of the change.

City staff explained that the presence of energy companies in each area also has an impact on the mill levy returns for each district.

For example, a table listing school districts in the state showed that one mill levy generates about $620,000 in Shoshoni. With 299 students enrolled in Fremont County School District 24, each child should see the benefit of about $2,085 in recreation spending.

In Lander, by contrast, 1,761 students are enrolled, and only $99 in recreation funding is available per child. Riverton enrolled 2,473 students and received $63 per student in the past. Fremont County School District 14 in Ethete earned $17 per student with an enrollment of 529 students and total recreation revenue of about $9,000. Students at the Arapahoe school district earned the least per student, with 336 enrolled and $2,400 generated for only $7 per child.

The resolution approved by the council would push for a change in the way the distribution is set up. It was crafted at the request of the Wyoming Association of Municipalities board of directors, who look at proposals from municipalities every year to build a policy platform for the next state legislative session.

Council member Mary Ellen Christensen questioned the "chances" this resolution would have in the legislative session. Council member Kyle Larson explained that his hometown of Salt Lake City faced a similar situation.

"The state of Utah realized the error of their ways and finally changed and equitably distributed the funds," Larson said. "It's an equitable way of doing things."

Council member Richard Gard agreed that it could be possible to shift the way a recreation district is funded.

"This again is the same funding mechanisms we used to have for school districts," Gard said. "We changed the funding for the school districts, and we can probably change the funding for recreation."

He added that all student are students of Wyoming.

Mayor Ron Warpness agreed that every student deserves equal treatment regardless of location.

"Our children are just as important, whether they're on the reservation, or whether they're in Riverton, or whether they're out in Lysite," he said.

Christensen was the only council member to vote against the WAM resolution.

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