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School board considers budget cuts

The Farmington School District has identified more than $300,000 in budget cuts and $87,000 of new revenue to help balance a budget hit by several years of flat funding from the state of Minnesota.

Among positions to be cut are a districtwide telephone specialist, an educational assistant at Farmington High School and a special education coordinator.

Finance director Jeff Priess told board members he expects a $119,000 budget shortfall if the state does not increase funding this year. An increase seems unlikely, considering the state has a budget deficit of more than $1 billion.

Other nearby districts have an even less optimistic outlook on the budget. The Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan district has projected a cut in state education funding and is expected to approve $15.3 million in budget cuts at a March 29 meeting.

Priess doesn't expect ISD 192 to have to make those kinds of cuts just yet, but he believes a reduction in state funding could come in 2012.

A group made up of district cabinet members, principals and others started meeting in February to identify possible budget cuts in the Farmington district.

Among those cuts are a reduction of five elementary school teaching positions and 3.6 secondary position, all at the middle school level. Priess said those cuts are the result of slowing enrollment growth rather than budget needs.

Priess called most of the cuts presented Monday "automatic."

Cutting the telephone specialist is expected to save the district $81,059. Priess said the work done by that individual can be taken on by other technology staff. He said technology staff should have more time available now that work is done on the new Farmington High School.

"We've had two people in the technology department -- one for sure -- totally attached to the construction project," Priess said.

The elimination of an educational assistant position at FHS will mean one less hall monitor, but Priess said the district has realized since the school opened that it does not need more than five hall monitors.

The recommendations also call for the elimination of a special education coordinator position ($111,426 savings) and for the district to take on more responsibility for managing food service operations ($45,000).

The district could collect some new revenue with a $10 increase to fees for all sports -- to $145 for high school sports, $110 for middle school sports and $195 for hockey. That is expected to bring in an additional $18,650.

A proposed fee for students who live between 1/2 mile and one mile from their elementary school is expected to raise an additional $50,000. The district currently buses students who live more than half a mile from their elementary school but state regulations put the cutoff for walking at one mile.

The budget recommendations were presented as a report on Monday. The board will act on them at a later meeting.

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.

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