Tuesday morning, the Joint Education Interim Committee heard testimony from many state departments on how to save money on schools. Construction will be one big source of savings.
There were four main administrative savings proposals: requiring a minimum enrollment for the creation of new alternative schools; changing reimbursements for retirement plans; seeking $7.1 million in federal funds available for WiFi improvements; finally, the state could also save $400,000 to $1 million a year if they eliminated lease purchase agreements on buses and paid for them in full immediately.
Jed Cicarelli, School Foundation Supervisor, said, “Now the amount reimbursed for these leased fees is fairly small considering a one and a half billion dollar funding model. But these costs could be reduced or eliminated if the state could move to a full reimbursement at the time the vehicle is acquired.”
The state will have major savings on capital construction projects for the next biennium. Major maintenance costs will increase slightly but nominally compared to the savings on construction. However, major maintenance costs will eventually rise again.
“You'll see those dollars increasing overtime for major maintenance,” School Facilities Department Director Delbert McOmie explained. “At some point yes, then it will stabilize out. But right now we have quite a few new schools that are less than seven years old.”
But Representative Sommers asked if there's a way Wyoming could design what he called a cookie-cutter school, so new school construction could save on architects and other fees. Sommers says the biggest waste of money in K-12 education is on facilities.
McOmie replied to the idea, “There are a suite of contracts school districts can go out and look at. When I was up meeting with the school district and his staff in Campbell county, they are actually doing that. They had three schools—they have prototypes—and that's what they're working off of.”