District 192 will set guidelines for 2014 budgetFarmington school administrators are still working on some of the big-picture structural changes they hope will help erase projected budget deficits starting next year, but they’re also preparing for some of the smaller steps that will start the district on its way.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
Farmington school administrators are still working on some of the big-picture structural changes they hope will help erase projected budget deficits starting next year, but they’re also preparing for some of the smaller steps that will start the district on its way.
School board members expect to vote on a plan that establishes those steps at their next regular meeting Dec. 10. Residents can attend that meeting to comment on the plan.
Board members got their first look at the budget parameters last week when they reviewed a draft of a budget framework for the 2013-14 school year. The document presented by finance director Carl Colmark included parameters for planning the budget for taxes residents will pay in 2014.
Colmark said the goal of the parameters is to avoid leaning too heavily on the kinds of typical budget cuts – like staff reductions – that districts make when they’re trying to get their finances in line.
“We really want to preserve the staff we currently have in place,” Colmark said. “We don’t want to lose staff to budget adjustments.”
That likely won’t be entirely possible. With more than 80 percent of the district’s budget going to salaries and benefits, there will have to be some cuts to personnel. The parameters Colmark presented last week also suggest that the district not increase staff even if enrollment goes up. That would lead to larger class sizes.
Colmark said Monday the draft parameters as presented would reduce a projected $1 million budget shortfall by as much as $440,000 based on preliminary numbers. He expects to have a better idea of the plan’s exact impact when more reliable numbers are released in February.
Colmark’s parameters also include spending part of the district’s unreserved fund balance, essentially money set aside for emergencies. That idea didn’t sit well with all board members.
“I just don’t like us using that (fund balance) unless there’s a darn good reason,” board member Brian Treakle said.
The rest of the budget adjustments would likely come from the kinds of outside-the-box changes the district has been looking for in a series of meetings with staff and the public. At those meetings superintendent Jay Haugen has been asking participants to reimagine the way a school district offers education to students. Suggestions have included everything from offering evening kindergarten classes to selling curriculum developed by Farmington teachers to eliminating the district’s copy center and going paperless as much as possible. The district currently makes something like 22 million copies each year, though an effort to put an iPad in the hands of every student might help with that as teachers have less need to print out materials that can be sent to students electronically.
Haugen plans to have more meetings with community groups in the weeks to come, and the district will use that feedback as it looks for creative solutions to the district’s budget problems. There will be another chance for resident input in January and February.