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Money was top topic at school forum

School board candidates discuss the issues during a Tuesday night forum.

The topic of money came up in several forms at last week's Farmington School Board candidate forum.

Five of the seven candidates in this fall's election answered questions about being fiscally responsible, whether they would support bringing an operating levy to voters and whether the district has too many administrators, among other questions.

Ron Groves and Rebecca Keeler did not attend the Oct. 5 forum, hosted by the North Trail Elementary School Parent Teacher Partnership.

Those who showed up found plenty to talk about, and a lot of it had to do with the money the district has and how it spends it.

Responding to a question about fiscal responsibility, candidate Melissa Sauser urged the district to fund the classroom first and to focus on "needs" rather than "wants." Brian Treakle said the district has to be careful with its spending.

"We need to recognize we don't have a lot of money in Farmington," he said.

Candidates also talked about how best to use money left in a fund established when voters approved a levy for construction of a new high school and a sixth elementary school. With slowing growth in the district it appears that elementary school will not be needed for several years.

Recommendations for using the money ranged from paying down debt to building a new pool or ice arena.

"The facilities should be there for the students," said Carol Kappes, who advocated for the athletic facilities.

Candidates showed little support for the idea of asking voters to approve a new levy. Candidate Tera Lee said she would support a new levy only if she was convinced the district's budget was as lean as possible.

Veronica Walter, the only incumbent in the race, said much the same.

"I have confidence in our financial team of people that they wouldn't bring something to the board they didn't think was important," Walter said.

Board candidates were split on whether the district has too many administrators. Treakle said Farmington spends too much on administration for a district its size and Lee pointed out Farmington is the only district its size with an assistant superintendent and a director of teaching and learning.

Walter, though, said good administration is important. She said if teachers have good leadership it makes it easier for them to do their job.

Candidates also spent time at the forum talking about the importance of communication, particularly with regards to the past summer's discussion about class sizes. Lee, who led an effort to add teachers and bring down projected class sizes, called for more transparency in the district's budgeting process.

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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