Questions about School District #1 and #9 BOCES and recreation funding parity
March 8, 2011
Editorís Note: Sublette County School District #9 has provided the following questions and answers about the issue of parity between Sublette County School District #1 and #9 for Board of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES) and recreation programs. Sublette County School District #9 (Big Piney, Marbleton and LaBarge) is asking Sublette County School District #1 (Pinedale, Daniel, Cora, Boulder, Bondurant) to combine their tax mill funds and split them evenly among the students in the county. Below are questions and unedited answers given to local media in regards to this topic. We have been asked to reprint School District #9ís responses in their entirety.
1) What is the latest regarding District 9's request for funding from District 1? What do you expect the counterproposal to bring?
District 9ís proposal was solicited from District 1ís delegation during a January 6th meeting in Pinedale to discuss the disparity with optional mills. District 9 was never under the impression this proposal would be final or considered "THE" request. We were lead to believe this was the avenue for additional open discussion between the two Districts. There has only been one meeting between the two districts as District 1 did not see a reason to have another meeting. We havenít heard anything back regarding a counterproposal, but it is our understanding District 1 is seeking input from their constituents. In our last communication, Superintendent Harnack explained their Board is expecting to take some form of action at their April meeting. Our expectation is for a fair and responsible resolution to the current disparity which provides funding for District 1 at $3,000.00 per student compared to District 9 at $300.00 per student.
2) What do you think is the likelihood you'll receive your request, or how close do you think it will get to the 1.5 million?
The 1.5 million dollar figure is based on a student enrollment calculation proposal using figures agreed upon to start the process. District 9 submitted a proposal which they believe is an avenue for parity between the two Districts. District 1ís Board has the power to accept, decline, or make a counter-proposal. They are in a position of power which carries with it the burden of being responsible Ė responsible for parity or disparity.
3) What are some misconceptions you think are out there about these requests?
One misconception is the geographic consideration of the Districtsí boundaries. These boundaries have very little to do with residential property valuation but much to do with mineral wealth in the respective boundaries. The County Assessorís website indicates less than 3% of the valuation for 2010 was attributed to residential property while almost 89% of all valuation can be attributed to mineral wealth. Many people think the locations of the two districtsí boundaries are in the north for District 1 and in the south for District 9. This is not the case.
Approximately 2.3 million acres of land in Sublette County is inside District 1 compared to 800,000 acres in District 9. These boundaries were redrawn a number of times to create parity in the 70ís when District 9 was in District 1ís current position of being flush with revenue. This allocation of land extends District 1ís boundaries well into the southern part of the County bordering District 9 on the west and the east. These areas are highly productive in terms of mineral revenue and are in District 9ís backyard but in District 1ís boundary.
There is a misperception that there was a "Court Order" requiring District 9 to equalize assessed valuation with District 1 back in the 1970ís. There was a Decision and Order from the State Committee on School District Organization which documents the Sublette County Planning Committee agreed to reach a 50%-50% split in the assessed valuation between the two Districts. Given District 9 could not provide more land for District 1ís boundary to reach equitable revenue, a gentlemanís agreement was made to write checks between Districts to reach equal funding in lieu of redrawing the boundaries.
Another matter which needs clarified is the potential impact of this proposal on District 1. In their recently released fact sheets, District 1 indicated that a total of $150,000 in rent is being paid by the BOCES, and $600,000 in rent is being paid by the PAC to School District 1. What facility expenses necessitate $750,000 in rent? Thatís a large amount of money which could be used for programs and opportunities for students. Would lowering the rent reduce the operational costs for these organizations and increase the opportunity for parity? Why does District 1 need this much for rent when their cash carryover balances are extremely healthy?
4) What is some of the community response to the disparity in funds between District 9 and 1?
Our parents and community members who work in the oil and natural gas industry are struggling with the rationale which supports this disparity. Employees who work in the exploration, extraction, and transmission of these resources from the Dry Piney Unit, North LaBarge Unit, North LaBarge Shallow Unit, Burly Field, BNG Field, B Field, Tip Top Shallow Unit, Big Piney Mesa Verde Unit, Chimney Bute Unit, McDonald Draw Unit and the Jonah Field all help to send a tremendous amount of revenue to District 1. However, all of these operations are closer to the communities of Marbleton, Big Piney, and LaBarge than they are to Pinedale. These employees know the work from their backs and minds in this industry is not equitably represented in the form of revenue coming back for their children and their communities. Our Board and our communities do not understand why this is any different from forty-years ago when the funding was equalized knowing full well for those forty-years it was the land in their communitiesí backyards and their labor which produced the generous revenue for District 1 - especially in the past few years with excess rebate funds which helped build the PAC. The enormous disparity in revenue combined with the location of these operations only increases the heartburn with this issue for our Board and community members.
5) Where do you think such disparities could lead District 9, in terms of educating the children? Do you believe they will fall behind technologically, etc. if these requests are not met?
More funds equal more opportunities when wisely utilized. Our students deserve the same access to the latest technology and instructional support to supplement their learning as their counterparts in the north. The funds involved in this issue are some of the only remaining monies available in which our Boards have local control, and with these monies, we can be innovative and creative in providing education solutions and opportunities for our students.
6) What would your final words be as to why District 9 deserves these funds, and what would you say to those who disagree?
The right thing to do is to have parity for our children and communities especially since a large portion of the revenue is created in the southern part of Sublette County and by our residents. In a Sublette County Planning Committee meeting on November 9, 1971 where both Districts were represented it was decided that the boundary line between the two districts would be adjusted until a "50%-50%" ratio of assessed valuation was met. This is reflected in the Decision and Order issued by the State Committee on School District Organization, State of Wyoming in 1971. There has been nothing presented which declares this order is no longer in force. Our Board and communities feel strongly about this issue and will exhaust all avenues in our pursuit of equity.
7) Any thing else youíd like people to know about District 9ís plans in general?
Our plans at District 9 will continue to focus on maximizing learning opportunities for all our children in order to equip them with the knowledge and skills necessary to be confident, responsible, and skilled.