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CWC wrestles with moving targets as budget process advances

Apr 28, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Central Wyoming College administrators say they will present balanced budgets for the coming three years when they meet in May to discuss finances with the CWC Board of Trustees.

"There is no doubt in my mind we'll be prepared in May, not only for 2014 but for 2015 and 2016 with good estimates for those years," Ron Granger, CWC's vice president for administrative services, told the board.

"We'll have the budget ready for you, and I think we'll have a very good picture then of where our revenues will be."

Granger had been scheduled to present a preliminary budget during the board's April 17 meeting, but in March he asked for extra time to prepare. He said it has been difficult to estimate future revenues and expenses this year because of changes at the local and state level.

"We just about get our budget where we want, and someone puts a goal post on us so we have to go back and do it again," Granger said.

Property value dips

In March he said revenues from local property valuation were down about 6.7 percent, amounting to a $219,000 decrease in revenue. CWC also took a 6.8 percent funding cut at the state level, but Granger pointed out that the college had been prepared to suffer 8 percent reductions.

"So (the state) added $97,190 to the revenues," Granger said.

Regardless, he said the college had almost $122,000 less to work with for the coming year as a result of the funding changes. Last year he had estimated that total revenues from state and local funds would add up to $11.6 million for fiscal year 2014.

"Our new estimate for state and local is $11.48 million," he said.

New concerns

CWC president Jo Anne McFarland said there are new budgetary concerns surrounding major maintenance funding from the state as well as emergency repair and preventative maintenance funding. She said the latter is dependent on coal lease bonus money that constitutes a major part of the $52 million lost in state funding as a result of the federal sequester.

Another issue has to do with enrollment growth funding from the state, which Granger said is not guaranteed for fiscal years 2015 and 2016.

"We are planning on the worst case scenario of no enrollment growth funding for fiscal year 2015 or fiscal year 2016," Granger said in his April memo to board members. "This puts us in a position of having a deficit in both fiscal year 2015 and fiscal year 2016."

CWC received almost $825,000 in enrollment growth funding for the current biennium, so Granger said the college is basically lacking that much in revenues for the upcoming two-year fiscal period.

"That enrollment growth that we aren't counting on is what's throwing us off for 2015-2016 as far as trying to balance that budget," Granger said. "If we had that, I'd be sitting here telling you we're going to be in great shape. ... We need to find a way to make that up."

He said cutting expenses now will make it easier to balance those budgets in the future.

"We are working on a three-year budget so we will have the funds to continue the excellent programs and services we now offer our students," Granger said.

McFarland agreed that enrollment growth funding is "one of those pots of revenue that we can't count on for the 2015-2016 biennium."

She noted that the current funding model requires colleges to approach the Wyoming Legislature each year to request enrollment growth money.

"So enrollment growth is always looked at as a new budget item, an increase," she said.

State regulation

McFarland suggested a state-level initiative to propose rolling adjusted enrollment growth figures into the base budget for Wyoming colleges.

"(That way if) enrollment drops, we get fewer revenues, and if your enrollment grows, you receive more," she said.

"Otherwise I think it makes it look like we're always getting new things. ... We're not asking to add. We're just asking for the resources we need to be adjusted according to how many students we're serving."

The board will meet May 7 to discuss budget items, with plans to adopt the preliminary fiscal year 2014 budget on May 15.

Final approval of the budget is scheduled for July 15.

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