CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A key legislative committee voted for a zero pay adjustment for Wyoming’s school districts Thursday.
The vote in the Joint Appropriations Committee was 8-4. The Joint Interim Education Committee earlier had recommended no change for the 2012-2013 school year in the external cost adjustment in the school finance model.
The external cost adjustment money goes for professional and nonprofessional teacher salaries, utilities and materials, such as computers and educational supplies.
Joint Appropriations Committee members who supported holding the line on an increase said this isn’t the time for more spending, given forecasts of declining revenues due to a drop in natural gas prices.
Committee members said their colleagues in the Legislature don’t favor increasing salaries and then having to cut budgets.
Rep. William “Jeb” Steward, R-Encampment, said he would like to see a 1 percent increase, a block grant that would cost the state $14 million a year.
He said the money is important to small school districts, in particular, and not just for teacher salaries.
He also said it’s important to keep the integrity of the school finance model.
Rep. Matt Teeters, R-Lingle, said a report to the House Education Committee, which he leads, shows salaries for Wyoming teachers rank in the top 1 or 2 nationally.
His committee, he said, will monitor the salary situation yearly.
The committee voted for the motion from Sen. Phil Nicholas, R-Laramie, the Joint Appropriations Committee co-chairman, to zero out any increase.
Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, an educator, supported the motion.
“We can wait a year,” Harshman said.
Voting for the motion, in addition to Nicholas and Harshman, were Sens. Curt Meier, R-LaGrange, and Ray Pederson, R-Cowley, and Reps. Rosie Berger, R-Big Horn, the committee co-chairman; Bryan Pedersen, R-Cheyenne, Sue Wallis, R-Recluse, and Amy Edmonds, R-Cheyenne.
Voting no were Sens. Michael Von Flatern, R-Gillette, and John Hastert, D-Green River, and Reps. Ken Esquibel, D-Cheyenne and Steward.