Amendment B - No Guarantee!
Educators and citizens speak out in opposition
by Citizens concerned about Amendment B
November 6, 2006
Editor's Note: The information below is from concerned citizens and educators from several school districts in Wyoming who are opposed to Amendment B, which is on the ballot in the general election.
The attached Fact Sheet outlines some of our concerns (and the concerns of others around Wyoming) with an amendment which has again been put on Wyoming's ballot, the second time in as many years. Amendment B. (A similar amendment was already defeated by Wyoming voters in 2004!)
This Amendment will send dollars taxed locally in each Wyoming school district, to the state, for legislators, not local educators or the local community to spend as they wish. We are concerned, because if this amendment passes, it will remove funding that a growing number of school districts are using immediately to address current growth impacts to their school systems.
Additionally, we are asking why certain Wyoming legislators preferred putting this amendment on the ballot twice, which would remove all educator control over locally-taxed school dollars, instead of several solutions we proposed to the legislature in the last 2 years. Solutions that would directly and equitably shared mineral/property tax monies with all Wyoming school districts.
This Fact Sheet covers many of our concerns, and we hope that you will help us share this vital information with our local community.
Please feel free to call one of us with your questions; or call your local school district's superintendent's office. Thank you for your attention to this important issue.
Don Dihle, Business Manager, Campbell County School District #1, Gillette:
home: (307) 682-1353; office: (307) 682-5171.
Vern McAdams, Business Manager, Sublette County School District #1, Pinedale:
o: 307-367-2139 x2
Frank Johnson, Business Manager, Lincoln County School District #1, Kemmerer,
Ken Konicek, Businessman, Community Volunteer, Pinedale: o: 307-367-2154 (x230), h: 307-367-6464
Dave Bell, Businessman, Community Volunteer, Pinedale, o: 307-367-2154 (x225) h: 307-367-6518
• Amendment B on the Wyoming ballot this November could hurt Wyoming school districts reeling from the impacts of growth in their communities. If passed, this constitutional amendment will require all school districts to return every single excess “recapture” dollar to the state, rather than be allowed to keep 25 percent of that money to use directly for their school systems, as is currently guaranteed by the Wyoming Constitution.
• Those supporting Amendment B claim that the measure will allow the state to redistribute excess property tax revenues equitably across the state. However, the way the ballot language reads, there is NO guarantee this will happen. The language merely states that these millions “may be redistributed.” This leaves a gaping hole whereby school districts enjoying economic growth now or in the future, will never again have the potential to use their own county’s tax money to fill immediate needs and be financially free to improve their school systems.
• The School Foundation Program Account is the state funding account, which provides basic school funding to Wyoming school districts. Funding allocations are determined by a state formula based on average daily student attendance and other factors. However, under the state’s budget for the biennium, the School Foundation Account (SFA) has an effective cap of $100 million, which the fund is at currently. When examining the state budget for this account, one learns that the state is taking $200 million out of K through 12 funding for items other than school districts funding. As set forth in the Wyoming Constitution, through the “recapture” process, 75% of these excess school-tax-revenue dollars (over statewide basic funding) are returned to the state and 25% stay in the school districts where the taxes originated.
• In essence, if Amendment B is passed Nov. 7, the funds that school districts around Wyoming receive now and use to alleviate their growth impacts (often coming from the energy boom or other growth in their communities) will disappear. Instead, those dollars will go directly to Cheyenne for the state legislature to control. Impacted, school districts will be entirely dependent on the basic funding they receive from the state as determined by the school funding formula, no matter how prosperous their counties may become in the future.
• Any immediate needs for additional classroom space, teachers or services to address increasing social problems, (such as substance abuse) will not receive immediate funding assistance. Currently it takes the School Facilities Commission two to three years to provide funding for new school buildings.
• During the past two years, Wyoming educators have twice proposed the creation of a fair solution for distributing additional dollars among all of Wyoming’s school districts. Unfortunately, Wyoming legislators did not support these measures.
• Instead, in 2004, the Legislature proposed a constitutional amendment similar to this year’s, requiring that 100 percent of all recapture monies leave local school districts and be sent to the state. In 2004, voters defeated that amendment. So this year, legislators are trying once again to take these millions from county school districts by putting Amendment B on this year’s ballot.
• Because the Legislature has not supported a more direct way to equitably share recapture school funds throughout all Wyoming school districts, Wyoming educators themselves have taken the initiative to help fellow school districts.
One effort is “Contract for Services,” a school-granting program funded by Sublette County School District Number 1, in Pinedale. The first year program seeks to distribute recapture dollars directly to school districts in financial need.
To date, this program has funded more than $1 million dollars to school districts statewide, including Washakie County School District Number 1 (Worland), Sweetwater County School District Number 1 (Rock Springs), Teton County School District Number 1 (Jackson), Park County School District Number 1 (Powell), Fremont County School District Number 1 (Lander) and other school districts. Grants will fund everything from school books to school teachers to school equipment.
Opponents of Amendment B believe Wyoming educators working with local school boards, are the right people to decide on how K through 12 dollars should be spent on education. Together, with the defeat of Amendment B, we can establish a practical, fair, working solution for sharing school dollars to benefit all Wyoming school age children locally.