One-year deficit budget on the table for Farmington Schools

With the potential loss of millions in state revenues, Farmington Public Schools officials are considering a four-year plan that would include one deficit budget.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Jennifer Kaminski told officials Tuesday that the district is expecting a $650 per pupil reduction, which may come in either the current or the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The district must pass a balanced budget by the end of June; state lawmakers have until the end of September to determine how they’ll deal with an estimated $3 billion shortfall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan to deal with the $6 million cut includes a $3.5 million dip into the district’s fund balance and 10 percent reductions in departmental and building budgets, as well as administrative and building level staffing reductions. There will also be some savings from the switch to virtual learning in March.

“We will still be able to provide the same level of service,” Kaminski said. “Class sizes are still being figured at the same amount.”

The financial future still holds many unknowns, she added, including whether the federal government will offer relief, whether the state will use its stabilization fund, the structure of school in the fall, and an August report on the state’s estimated revenues.

Despite using saved funds, Kaminski said, the district will maintain a 10 percent fund balance, keeping it out from under state oversight. Trustee Terri Weems pointed out not all school districts are that fortunate.

Weems said during a virtual meeting hosted by the Michigan Association of School Boards, she learned a number of districts will fall into the 5 percent danger zone.

Acknowledging some tough decisions and the work of the board and administration, she said, “We are in a better position than many districts.”

Superintendent Bob Herrera said the district’s revenues should stabilize as the last enrollment “bubble” of seniors graduates next year. Without dipping into reserves, he said the district would have to get into “higher level” cuts that would impact services to children.

“We think this is a conservative way for the board to manage the budget this year,” he said. “We still remain at a 10 percent fund balance, and we return to a balanced budget the following year. We believe that is a manageable task.”

In addition, he said, if the financial picture improves, trustees could add back to the fund balance.

Correction: The title of Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Jennifer Kaminski and the month by which state lawmakers must resolve a budget shortfall have been corrected. 

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