Farmington school district struggles with how to make huge cuts

The clock is ticking.

By April the Farmington School District has to find about $700,000 in its budget to cut.

Everyone seemingly agrees they need to bring the budget down, but it's when it comes to deciding what to cut that the debate starts.

Fifth grade band, middle school sports, and increased class sizes are some of the hot-button issues being discussed to bring the district's costs down.

The human cost of losing fifth grade band can be seen in 6-year-old Ben Wallevand. Ben, who was born premature and is dealing with some developmental issues, rarely says a word.

However, when music is involved, Ben becomes a whole new kid.

Ben isn't in band currently, though he hopes to start next year when he is in first grade. 

"The elimination of 5th grade band is weighing heavily on my heart," Ben's mom, Kirsten Wallevand, says. "I swear I thought I was going to get through this without crying..."

Earlier this week, an emotional Wallevand faced the Farmington Area School Board and made her case to spare 5th grade band from the chopping block – hoping her son wouldn't miss out on a musical education.

District leaders say eliminating 5th grade band would save $118,000, and it isn't the only proposed cut being considered.

Increased class sizes could save $330,000, dumping middle school sports another $70,000, and only busing some athletes one way an additional $50,000.

For now, district leaders are overcompensating by planning to cut around $1,000,000 from the budget so as to have options.

"We won't know until the legislature is done in May, so we're just making our best guess," said Farmington Area Schools Superintendent Jay Haugen.

Haugen says that outside of the legislature comes through with money, funding sources are limited.

"If they (the state legislature) would just give us a cost-of-living increase of 2 or 2.5 percent we would have almost no reductions," he says.

Between now and April 1st there will be two public and three school board meetings.

The district needs to know what the reductions are by April so it can set its budget by June.

Wallevand says she understands the budget needs to be balanced. She just hopes, for now, that the band can play on.
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