Sheridan County School District 2 has plans to rebuild Coffeen Elementary, but the Wyoming School Facilities Commission does not allocate funding for the school in its 2012-13 biennium budget.
School Facilities Director Julie Carroll explained the situation to Sheridan area legislators at last night's annual forum between legislators and District 2. Carroll said that they received the bad news last Friday, December 9. This came after a meeting a few weeks ago with the SFC which left them under the impression that Coffeen would be funded.
Coffeen is 13th on the SFC's priority list of capital construction project schools. Schools are ranked on the list by needs and then receive funding in planning and design and construction phases. In Coffeen's case, their need is for a bigger school in order to make up for growing enrollment. The list is ongoing from year to year; Coffeen has been on the list for four years. Also, the SFC's budget takes into account the governor's budget and its recommendations. Governor Mead released his budget Thursday, Dec. 1 which included $403.5 million for K-12 capital construction.
Instead of Coffeen, and projects 14-18 on the list, the proposed SFC budget would fund 1-12 and No. 19. Number 19 is Natrona County High School's alternative school or Roosevelt High School. Under the proposed budget, Natrona County School District 1 would receive a combined $224 million for renovation of Kelly Walsh High School (No. 6 on the list) and for Natrona's alternative high school. Also, these two projects would be funded in their entirety in 2012-13.
Monday night, District 2 personnel questioned whether NCSD1 could spend the money and complete the project in the allotted time, 2012-13. Sheridan-Buffalo Representative Mike Madden also said that he thought the SFC would be required by statute to follow the list, but the issue would require looking into.
The recommendation, to go forward with all construction instead of the traditional phased approach, came from an outside consultant. Carroll said that NCSD1 gave reasons of cost savings for trying to complete both projects all at once. At the meeting, legislators asked Carroll if she believed there would be savings by doing it this way. She said no, that using one contractor for this large of a project may result in some savings in terms of buying that amount of brick, but doubted that one Wyoming or even one Colorado contractor could take on a project that large in a reasonable time frame to result in savings that way.
Budgets are ultimately reviewed and can be amended by the Joint Appropriations Committee and approved by the state legislature. Sheridan Representative Rosie Berger is Chair of the Joint Appropriations Committee. She says this is a very complex issue that will be addressed in January.
Berger also advised SCSD2 to join with the other districts, those with projects 14-18 on the list that are also being skipped, in order to voice disagreement jointly.
SCSD2 has a goal to begin demolition and rebuilding of Coffeen at its current site after the new Meadowlark is completed and ready for use next fall. They cite district-wide enrollment increases in their rebuilding the school. The plan would rebuild Coffeen as a 3-section instead of the current 2-section school, and it would have capacity for 401 students.