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Some Wyoming community colleges brace for bust

CASPER, Wyo. — Some of Wyoming’s seven community colleges are looking for ways to save money in anticipation of lower state aid and local tax revenue.

“I think they are all cautiously aware that their local revenue will almost certainly decline, and there is a very good chance that state revenue will as well,” Matt Petri, deputy director and chief financial officer for the Wyoming Community College Commission, said.

Gov. Matt Mead announced last month that Wyoming would face a $618 million drop in revenue in the next three years because of low prices for energy industry commodities. Mead ordered a partial hiring freeze for state agencies.

Community colleges receive about 60 percent of their revenue from the state based on enrollment. About 20 percent of their budget is made up of tuition and fees, and another 20 percent comes from local property taxes, including volatile oil and gas taxes.

Western Wyoming Community College in Sweetwater County and Northwest College in Park County are expecting 22 percent and 23 percent drops from their local revenue, Petri said.

Related: Wyoming banks in better position to weather oil price drop

Petri said Wyoming community colleges are not included in the governor’s hiring freeze but many schools are voluntarily introducing similar measures.

Central Wyoming College, which anticipates a $3.6 million shortfall over the next two years, imposed a temporary hiring freeze last week and formed a team of eight to 10 college employees to make cost-saving recommendations, college spokeswoman Lori Ridgway.

“At best, these are projections,” Ridgway said in an email to the Casper Star-Tribune. “But Central Wyoming wants to be prepared as well as we can. We always plan for a “worst-case scenario” so as not to compromise our core mission of student completion/success.”

Colleges less dependent on energy revenue are a bit better off.

For Eastern Wyoming College in Goshen County, booms and busts in the energy industry are not a local concern, said Eastern Wyoming President Rick Patterson.

Patterson said he is looking at ways to trim costs in anticipation of state aid diminishing, but expects local revenue to remain steady.

Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com

This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.