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School funds affected as stimulus money dwindles

Dec 9, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Local educational institutions noticed a lack of federal funding this year after spending the last of their American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money.

According to the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, the federal stimulus package was created to provide fiscal relief to state governments through the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2011.

Accountants for Central Wyoming College and Fremont County School District 25 both noted the dip in revenue this month as the result of ARRA's expiration.

Wayne Herr from CWC's certified public accounting firm McGee, Hearne & Paiz, LLP, said the college's expenditures of federal awards for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, reached almost $9.4 million. During the previous year, however, he said CWC spent almost $9.7 million in federal award money.

"That is significant," Herr said during his November audit report for the CWC Board of Trustees. "Institutions I'm working with are seeing a definite decrease in federal award money because this dried up."

Riverton schools

Riverton's school district has less federal money to spend during fiscal year 2012 too. Accountant Dave Brinda from the Lander-based firm McKee, Marburger & Fagnant, P.C., tallied a little more than $4 million in federal funds expended through District 25 this year -- $1 million less than the $5 million spent during fiscal year 2011.

"That's almost all related to ARRA funding," he said, adding that Riverton schools took particular advantage of federal money that is no longer available for special education funding. "I know you face the impact of that."

Much of the money had gone toward extra assistance or interventions for students, but Superintendent Terry Snyder said those new programs have been eliminated now that the ARRA money is gone. Regardless, Snyder said he was happy to provide additional help for students while the stimulus money was available.

"We're glad we had those funds for that amount of time," Snyder said. "Every opportunity to help a child at any time is an excellent opportunity."

The reduction in programs also affected about 35 employees who were laid off or saw their hours reduced.

"We got caught in kind of a tight squeeze," Snyder said. "Our ARRA funds were going away, and then we also had to increase staffing."

Riverton hired more instructors last year in an attempt to comply with the state's 16:1 student-teacher ratio requirement. But Snyder said employees who were laid off after ARRA expired will top hiring lists in the near future.

"(They) were just very skilled and excellent employees, and we hated to lose them," Snyder said. "As people have resigned from other positions, we've been able to hire some of them back."

Brinda and his accounting team calculated that the district also contains fewer assets this year because of the decrease in federal funding.

Brinda said District 25 has $66.6 million in assets now and more than $5 million in liabilities like capital leases.

"(That leaves) about $61.6 million in total assets, a decrease of $522,000 for the fiscal year," Brinda said.

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