Well, you can forget it now. It's gone.
Jaws dropped around the board table Monday when Northwest College President Paul Prestwich told NWC trustees the college must pay $1.2 million to the Wyoming Community College Commission for redistribution …
The county giveth, and the state taketh awayRemember the surprise $1.15-million revenue windfall Northwest College budgeted in June, thanks to Park County's record-high valuation this year?
Well, you can forget it now. It's gone.
Jaws dropped around the board table Monday when Northwest College President Paul Prestwich told NWC trustees the college must pay $1.2 million to the Wyoming Community College Commission for redistribution to other colleges in the state.
“Where once we had a fair amount of unbudgeted reserve dollars for fiscal year 2010, that will be eaten up by this,” Prestwich said.
The return of the money is required through the recapture and redistribution process, mandated by the community college funding formula, through which funding is equalized at the state's seven community colleges.
The estimated amount budgeted for redistribution by college administrators was $250,000.
“Easy come, easy go,” said a resigned Sheldon Flom, finance director at the college.
Flom said Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs and Northwest College were the big winners this year in county tax revenue increases.
Meanwhile, revenue at other colleges remained relatively flat or declined, creating a situation in which local revenues varied widely at the colleges. Consequently, much of the increased revenue from Western (in Rock Springs) and Northwest will be redistributed to other colleges to equalize funding across the college system.
Enrollment also is factored in when the commission computes recapture and redistribution figures. While enrollment increased at Northwest last year, it was outpaced by enrollment gains at other colleges in the state, and those colleges did not experience the revenue increase that Northwest College did, Flom said.
Jim Rose, director of the Wyoming Community College Commission, said Tuesday the recapture and redistribution process has been part of the funding process for many years.
But he noted that the commission is operating on temporary funding rules this year, because Gov. Dave Freudenthal last year rejected the commission's attempt to re-work the college funding formula and sent it back to the drawing board.
This year's temporary rules consider only enrollment when distributing funds among the colleges. Unlike the past formula or the one being developed now, the temporary rules do not consider the colleges' fixed costs, such as utility bills — “really, the cost of opening the doors of the institution,” Rose said.
Those costs, he added, have little to do with enrollment.
Because of Park County's dramatic rise in valuation this year and the temporary rules for distributing funds among colleges, “Northwest probably is the one that may have been most dramatically affected,” Rose said.
The county's valuation is expected to fall next year as dramatically as it rose this year.
Not all of Monday's news was bad, though. NWC fall enrollment numbers are up, and $630,000 of the windfall had been budgeted for reserves and therefore is uncommitted.
Prestwich said the $630,000 was not budgeted for spending because county mill-levy figures changed so late in the budgeting process, and because “there were so many unknowns.”
Meanwhile, Prestwich said fall enrollment numbers are running 15.5 percent above last year's figures — and 13.5 percent above the 2-percent increase anticipated in the budget. Therefore, revenue from tuition and fees will total about $450,000 more than budgeted.
However, “that is an unscientific number,” Prestwich cautioned. “It depends on the final enrollment numbers and the types of courses students are in.”
If tuition figures meet expectations, the amount college administrators actually will have to cut as a result of redistribution should total about $101,000.