Commission: Budget cuts probable in 2013

The Joint Appropriations Committee of the Wyoming Legislature will have to do its markup session with a slightly smaller budget than anticipated. The biennium general budget for 2013-2014 decreased from $3.4 billion to $3.2 billion.

Carol Hoglund, Laramie County Community College’s vice president of finance and administration, said budget cuts will be necessary because the January report from the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group (CREG) forecast a potential shortcut of $113.1 million.

“This is because of an expected reduction of the natural gas,” Hoglund said. CREG made changes to the revenue forecast because of estimated changes in natural gas prices, which resulted in reductions of mineral severance taxes, and to reflect a refund from overpaying royalties to the Office of Natural Resource Revenue (ONRR).

What does this mean to college students, especially for LCCC students? Gov. Matt Mead has recommended a budget for Wyoming’s community colleges and actually gave them a slight increase, Hoglund said.

Gov. Mead approved only a few budget exemptions requests, said Dr. Jim Rose, executive director of Wyoming Community College Commission. “He advocated for the enrollment growth funding over $14.9 million instead of the asked $21 million. Also, the new central computing system for the Wyoming Community College Commission (WCCC) has been advised.”

The governor also recommended funding for the Wyoming investment and nursing program and veterans tuition waiver program. Additional funding has been recommended for two programs, Complete College America and Intrusive Advising.

Six community college buildings were on the capital construction budget in October; the governor recommended four of these buildings. The original six were the University of Wyoming outreach building on the Cheyenne campus of LCCC, two projects at Central Wyoming College for academic facilities in Riverton and Lander, a new building at Northwest College, a new facility in Douglas for Eastern Wyoming College and repurposing of facilities at Western Wyoming Community College.

“The state share of the projects the governor recommended is a little over $15 million,” Rose said. “The two projects he did not approve were the UW outreach building here at LCCC and the one in Douglas. The total bill for all six projects would have been $43 million.”

The UW building on the Cheyenne campus for LCCC is not completely off the table, Hoglund said. “Our building is still a high priority for us,” LCCC’s Hogland said. ”The next step on is to a Level II study, which we already have funds for, and the University of Wyoming is putting in requests for funding.”

This is all based on estimates and revenue forecasts from December 2011 and January 2012. The Joint Appropriations Committee still must go through its markup session and ultimately decide what it has to work with, what to fund and where cutbacks must be made. If cutbacks have to be made, they will be distributed proportionally, Rose said.