Posted at 4 p.m., Nov. 25, 2013

WACCT seeks changes to funding model

By Brooke A. Rogers
Managing Editor

Laramie County Community College is supporting the Wyoming Association of Community College Trustees’ six budget priorities to be proposed to the Legislature in February.

“We’ve found in the past and certainly believe in the future we’ll be more successful if we’re all on the same page,” LCCC President Dr. Joseph Schaffer said.

LCCC and WACCT’s top priority this year is modifying the state’s funding model for community colleges.

Currently, the funding model is constructed so Wyoming colleges are funded based on their enrollment growth, meaning the colleges must request additional legislative funding every year. This year, the WACCT is requesting $14.3 million be added to the Wyoming colleges’ standard budget for the next four years instead of requesting additional funds yearly.

“It will allow the colleges to plan more effectively if we can get this done, and we won’t go back and ask for enrollment growth funding for four more years,” Steve Bahmer, WACCT executive director, explained. “We’ll set an amount and live with that amount, then recalibrate four years from now based on enrollment.”

Another priority LCCC and WACCT share is the request for additional monies for an endowment challenge fund, which would match private donations to the LCCC Foundation with state dollars.

“One of the wonderful programs that has existed here in Wyoming has been state appropriation for matching of private gifts to the colleges and the university,” Schaffer said. “We’ve exhausted those funds, and it’s helped grow the number of scholarships that go to students exponentially.”

Raising employee salaries is another issue for LCCC and WACCT. “We want to make sure we stay competitive and we can recruit both locally and nationally and have the salary set where it needs to be,” Schaffer said. The college will wait until the governor releases his budget recommendations in December before forming any specific requests for employee salary increases.

The WACCT has also been working with Sen. Leslie Nutting, R-Laramie, to draft a bill that would study security on all college and university campuses in the state and determine what level of security preparedness is acceptable as well as what state resources might need to be used to reach that level. LCCC’s Director of Safety, James Crosby, has updated the campus Emergency Response Plan and established a campus safety academy.

“Some of what we’re doing is modeled on what LCCC is doing already,” WACCT’s Bahmer said. “The folks at LCCC have really taken a lead in terms of identifying inadequacies or inequities and trying to address those.”

LCCC’s third priority is capital construction funding. This $22 million request would provide the remaining funds needed to move forward with the LCCC’s “Building Forward” project to construct two new buildings on its Cheyenne campus.

Another concern is funding to maintain the older buildings on campus. Major maintenance funding is provided by the state and distributed to the colleges by the Wyoming Community College Commission. LCCC currently has an estimated $13 million backlog of needed repairs.

“We’d like the Legislature to consider increasing the ratio in which they calculate major maintenance funding, which may provide additional funding to the colleges to take care of the facilities they have,” Schaffer said.

The Wyoming Legislature will consider these proposals during its 20-day budget session in February.