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Finders, keepers

Wyoming's department of education gave, and the state legislature tried to take away. But to no avail.

A handful of Wyoming lawmakers are upset over their colleagues' decision to allow 10 school districts to keep a total of $5.3 million they received in error from the education department. The disbursements ranged from $40,000 to $1.6 million.

The House education committee's chairman, for one, was "disappointed" that the legislature didn't support the effort to have the districts return the money.

James C. Hageman

"People feel more responsibility to their district than to the taxpayers," Rep. James C. Hageman, a Republican, said of his fellow lawmakers.

Confusion over a payment change under the state's new method for distributing money to schools resulted in the agency providing the extra money.

During this year's legislative session, some House members unsuccessfully sought on three separate occasions to force the schools to return the money.

Each of the bills would have required the districts to return half or all of the money within the current school year. The last attempt was defeated by a vote of 29-27 in the House on March 1.

Rep. Chris Boswell, a Democrat whose local district received nearly $1.6 million in extra funding, was among those who voted to let the districts keep the money.

He said the department did not reveal the errors until well into the school year, after districts had already received the money.

In his district, Sweetwater County No. 2 in Green River, officials took pains to double-check their eligibility for the money, and the department confirmed it, he added.

"How is a district supposed to return money it doesn't have?" Mr. Boswell asked.

—Adrienne D. Coles

Vol. 19, Issue 28, Page 24

Published in Print: March 22, 2000, as State Journal

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