COVID leaves Farmington Schools with fewer kids, more money

The COVID-19 pandemic has left Farmington Public Schools with about 300 fewer students and $7 million more than expected last spring.

Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Jennifer Kaminski said Tuesday that conditions in May of 2020 led to a very conservative 2020-2021 budget.

“There were a lot of unknowns,” she told school board members. “We were at the height of the pandemic.”

At that time, state officials were estimating a $1 billion shortfall in the school aid fund. The budget anticipated fewer students plus a $650 per pupil funding reduction, a loss of more than $6 million.

Kaminski said the district expected to use $3.5 million of its fund balance last year and carry forward $4 million in cuts. Measures taken included 10 percent budget reductions, cutting discretionary spending, and cuts in building and administrative staff.

Since July 1, 2020, Kaminski said, the picture has gotten brighter. Instead of $650, the district lost $175 per pupil (less than $2 million). Officials were also allowed to use a “super blend” of two years’ enrollment numbers to offset losses.

Farmington Schools has received $4.8 million in COVID relief funds, with dollars spent on student needs and personal protection equipment, Kaminski said.

Revenue losses include $800,000 in tuition (mostly preschool), $295,000 in interest, $204,000 in rental income, and more than $700,000 in fees for field trips, athletics, and admission to events. With students out of buildings, the district has also spent less on substitute teacher costs, special education transportation, and utilities.

Kaminski said current unknowns include future state and federal COVID-relief funding and whether the hundreds of students who have left will return.

Next steps will include a Board of Trustees workshop, input from staff and the community, and developing budget parameters and assumptions. Kaminski said she will provide forecasts for 2022-23 and 2023-24 with next year’s budget. 

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