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Good budget news for District 192

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Carl Colmark got to use an unfamiliar word this week as he kicked off the Farmington School District’s annual budget planning process: Surplus.

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According to current projections, the district will have $61,573,286 in revenues in its 2014-15 budget year and $61,378,764 in expenditures, a surplus of nearly $200,000. It’s a situation Colmark, the district’s finance director, is not used to seeing.

“I am very giddy about it,” Colmark said Monday as he introduced the district’s budget planning process.

The additional money is due in part to increases in state funding, as well as the introduction starting in the fall of state-funded all-day kindergarten. The district also recently eliminated its communication specialist position and, thanks to a reduction in the number of copies needed in a district that has gone all-in on iPads, reduced expenses in its document center. Colmark said so far this year the district has reduced the number of copies made at the document center from 12 million to eight million, a savings of about $100,000.

But the surplus is not likely to trigger a spending spree. Colmark’s longer-term projections show a deficit of slightly more than $1 million in the 2015-16 budget year and $4.3 million by 2017-18.

“I don’t think we can sit back and assume the legislature is going to be as good to us,” Colmark said. “I really don’t expect that good fortune to continue. We’ll be looking at a deficit again.”

Colmark suggested to school board members Monday that they apply the expected surplus to the district’s unreserved fund balance, a kind of rainy-day fund for unplanned expenses. District policy calls for that fund balance to equal 6 or 7 percent of expenditures, but because of lean budget years recently it is currently well below that.

Adding the expected surplus would raise the fund balance to about 2.5 percent of expenditures, Colmark said Monday.

“One big to-do in one of our buildings could wipe that out very quickly,” board member Julie Singewald said.

Colmark also suggested that the district consider asking residents to approve an operating levy. He did not discuss how much additional funding the district might ask voters to approve, or when the vote might come.

School board members asked Colmark to continue looking at some of the cuts and other changes the district has considered in recent years. They wanted to make sure the district explores all options for cutting expenses before asking voters for more money.

“I think there’s great things that have happened in this district, but we need to very well spread that message through our community,” Singewald said.

Monday’s discussion was the first step in the district’s budget planning process. The timeline Colmark presented Monday calls for the district to approve budget parameters at its Feb. 24 meeting, hold a budget work session May 12 and approve a final budget June 9.

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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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