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After a delay, budget gets OK

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news Farmington, 55024
Farmington Independent
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Farmington Minnesota P.O. Box 192 / 312 Oak St. 55024

In the end, District 192 School Board members offered thanks but no changes to parents who had raised concerns about projected class sizes.

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The school board voted 5-1 Monday to approve a preliminary budget unchanged from the one they were set to vote on in May. The board delayed that decision when a group of parents objected to projections that showed as many as 31 students in some elementary classrooms.

Board members and others in the district have said those kinds of projections are not unusual this time of year, and that class sizes typically fall the first day of school gets closer and the district gets a clearer picture of how many students will actually show up.

Board members thanked the parents who spoke up for showing an interest and suggested they get involved earlier in the process next year, when it's easier to make changes.

"I think it's a great discussion. My only disappointment is that it didn't happen in December," said board member Veronica Walter.

The budget approved Monday includes more than $300,000 in cuts and $87,000 in new revenue to erase a projected $119,000 shortfall. Cuts include the elimination of a districtwide telephone specialist, an educational assistant and a special education coordinator.

The district also plans to increase the distances some students have to walk to school. In previous years elementary students who lived within 1/2 mile of school and secondary students who lived within a mile were expected to walk or find other transportation to school. A new district policy expands walking zones to one mile for elementary and two miles for secondary students but implements a pay-to-ride system for walking-zone students who want to take the bus.

Finance director Jeff Priess said that change should have only a small impact, at least in the first year. Because the district provides busing to walking-zone students who would have to deal with a designated hazardous crossing to get to school Priess expects the change to affect only about 129 students in three neighborhoods.

The district also plans to bring in new revenue with a $10 increase to athletic fees and a new levy for 360 Communities, a community group that provides services in the schools.

Changes fall flat

Monday's budget vote didn't pass without some discussion of changes. Board member Tim Burke angered other board members with two proposed changes -- one to eliminate the 360 Communities levy and another to add $250,000 to the budget for elementary education and remove the same amount from the budget for administration.

The proposals, which hadn't been discussed before Monday's meeting, drew little discussion and some angry reactions from board members, who accused Burke of making proposals he knew had no chance of passing.

"We've spent nine months going over this," board member Julie McKnight said. "You're bringing (the changes) to the board knowing we aren't going to approve it, but you're grandstanding for your constituents."

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Nathan Hansen
Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.
(651) 460-6606
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