Wyoming native Vern McAdams took a traditional path to school business, working in an accounting firm before becoming a school finance auditor for the state department of education nearly two decades ago. From there, he spent five years in Laramie School District #2 in Pine Bluffs, Wyoming, before his current position became available. For the past 13 years, Vern has served as director of business and finance for Sublette County School District #1 in Pinedale, Wyoming.
When Vern arrived at Sublette, it was an anomaly compared to many other districts around the country at the time. The primary difference? It had an enormous revenue surplus. Vern explains that the area is home to some of the nation’s largest natural gas fields, which provide significant income. This fact, along with recapture tax laws, meant the district had tens of millions of dollars in surplus revenue, which they put to good use.
Sublette County School District #1 serves a little over 1,000 students in two elementary schools (one of which is nearly 50 miles from town and serves four students), one middle school, one high school, and a small alternative high school. During Vern’s tenure, surplus funds have been used to fund two trusts for personnel, build a new elementary school and add on to the middle and high schools, construct a heated bus barn, and perhaps most impressive, erect a world-class recreation center in a town of just 2,000 people! The latter is a school district building that is leased to a joint powers board, of which Vern has financial oversight.
However, the recapture tax laws have changed, which means this growing district could face up to $1 million in funding cuts next year, with additional reductions in subsequent years. While there is money in reserve accounts, it’s still a struggle to deal with severe budget cuts—a concept that Vern says is complicated to explain to stakeholders.
School business officials across Wyoming’s 48 school districts are a tight-knit and active group. Vern has gone through the leadership ranks in Wyoming ASBO and sat on and chaired multiple boards related to investments, property and casualty insurance, and more. They all rely on ASBO International for guidance in federal regulations. “We can’t study and know everything out there,” Vern says. “Why reinvent the wheel?”
When he’s not keeping Sublette on an even keel, Vern—who says he has always had a lot of energy—can be found swimming an hour a day, five days a week, in the pool within the very recreation center that he helped launch!
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