Turnout was light at first budget discussion meetingOn a night when District 192 Finance Director Carl Colmark asked for big ideas for balancing the district’s budget, one of the district’s biggest recent ideas was front and center.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
On a night when District 192 Finance Director Carl Colmark asked for big ideas for balancing the district’s budget, one of the district’s biggest recent ideas was front and center.
At Monday’s first of two planned public input sessions to discuss expected budget cuts, the district’s push to put iPads in the hands of all students was very much the center of attention. Materials for the presentation were handed out to participants in the form of interactive iBooks, and with much of the early part of the meeting taken up with quiet reading of those materials and with superintendent Jay Haugen’s presentation on the modern education landscape it was more than half an hour before the topic of the budget came up.
The message, Haugen said, is that the district is taking a no-such-thing-as-a-bad-suggestion approach to the early part of this process, encouraging residents to throw out ideas that might sound outlandish rather than focusing on the kinds of cuts – to teachers, custodians or administrators, for example – that typically tend to come up in such discussions.
“There’s only so many times you can do that,” Colmark said. “We’ve got to find some new ways to solve our budget problems.”
For the district, those problems include a projected $1 million budget shortfall for the coming year and a deficit of as much as $4.6 million four years from now.
The district didn’t get much in the way of big ideas Monday, at least not out loud. As part of the technology-focused session participants in Monday’s session – which drew nearly twice as many school board members and district employees as residents to Dodge Middle School – had an opportunity to make suggestions through the district-owned iPads handed out to everyone as they arrived.
Participants could also browse suggestions made at earlier input sessions held with district staff. Those ideas included everything from going paperless – Colmark said Monday the district makes in the area of 22 million copies each year – to offering evening kindergarten classes to putting a renewed focus on energy-saving efforts.
There was also a suggestion to reach out to the business community for support, something recently-elected school board member Laura Beem echoed in her comments Monday. Beem said she was approached several times during the construction of Farmington High School by people with construction experience who suggested the district was paying more than it had to for the project.
People with that kind of expertise “are out there in the community and they care and they’ll provide that input,” Beem said.
The district planned a similar input session for Tuesday night at Boeckman Middle School. Colmark plans to present the results of all input sessions to the Farmington School Board in December. There will be further opportunities for resident input in January and February.