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Talking Education 2014

CHEYENNE -- Members of the Wyoming School Facilities Commission on Wednesday discussed two studies on long term funding for the department and its projects.

One study, being done with the University of Wyoming, is looking at the funding expected to come into the School Facilities Department and the department’s predicted expenses through about 2022, according to study information.

The group from UW found a gap between the predicted expenses of the department and the revenue generated by the current funding sources, Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy Director Robert Godby said.

“The long and the short of the analysis was the gap that we estimated between the revenues and the costs going through to 2022 would be $676 million,” he said. “About 51 percent of that is through the 2018 biennium, so we’re not looking at the current fiscal biennium, (in) which we actually forecast a surplus.”

The gap starts to develop as the money brought into the department decreases while school district building work continues, he said.

The funding model is currently based on coal lease bonuses, which are expected to end in 2017. At that point, the department's funding is currently capped at $26 million, Godby said.

The report does predict that the general expenses for the department will drop in a few years as fewer major building projects are needed, he said.

But according to the report, the funding levels needed during that maintenance period will still be about $187 million to $200 million.

“Moving forward, we expect that there is about $350 million worth of new construction and major maintenance that has to be done,” he said. “After that, the department actually goes into a whole new phase of operations.”

While more leases could be sold, they still would cover only about 25 to 50 percent of the gap, Godby said.

“If the state wants to continue on the same practices that they had before in respect to school facilities and really to finish the project that was started about a decade ago," Godby said, "the state will have to find other ways of funding this agency.”

Contact Assistant Managing Editor David Mayberry at 307-266-0633 or david.mayberry@trib.com. Follow him on Twitter@David_Mayberry.

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