State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill said on Monday she wants to return more than $100,000 in staff funding to the Wyoming Department of Education, a move that apparently comes as a surprise to Gov. Matt Mead, whose spokesman said Hill was in Mead’s office on Thursday asking for a budget hike.
Hill said she intends to forego budgetary funding in excess of $100,000 for an administrative assistant and a public information officer and return the money to the Department of Education. Hill cited concerns about last week’s report that the education department’s Information Management Division is struggling with staffing issues among other items.
“I know that I need these positions and the Legislature intended that my office have funding for these positions, but in light of the current challenges at the Wyoming Department of Education, I think we are all better served if I hold off on my immediate needs so that the Department can address some of its recent staffing challenges,” Hill said in a media release issued Monday.
Renny MacKay, Mead’s spokesman, wrote in an email to the Star-Tribune that as of Thursday, Hill was in Mead’s office asking for a $113,000 increase in her budget.
“At that time she did not express any concern about the Department of Education, its budget or its data management staffing – the data management concerns referenced by the Superintendent and the report stem from decisions made at the Department of Education more than a year ago,” the email stated.
Mead encouraged Hill to follow the required process to acquire the additional funding.
“She originally sought a budget three times larger than her current budget, she asked last week for additional money and now has apparently decided she does not need additional funds,” the email stated. “I remain unsure of where she is headed with budgeting.”
Hill in a telephone interview on Monday denied that she had requested increased funds last week, and said it would be in writing if she had.
“The governor, if he says I was requesting something from him, he is not telling you the truth, if he says that Cindy Hill was requesting that I have more funds from him,” Hill said.
Wyoming lawmakers in January passed Senate File 104, legislation that relieved the elected superintendent of much of her duties and created an education department director position appointed by the governor. Hill during the last legislative session had requested $6.3 million to include 15 employee positions for her new office. Mead recommended $2.2 million with 12 positions.
Hill filed a lawsuit challenging SF 104’s constitutionality on the day Mead signed the bill into law. The Wyoming Supreme Court is expected to rule on the lawsuit late this summer.
In Monday’s release, Hill optimistically said, “I remain confident that when I return to the Department, I will be able to step up and resume its full array of services to educators, students and citizens in short order.”