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Enrollment growing at Farmington schools

Board approves $27-million school budget. by Lynn Kutter | September 6, 2023 at 3:09 p.m.

FARMINGTON -- Farmington School District opened two additions to the junior high campus this year, yet on Aug. 28, the Farmington School Board had to deny interdistrict transfer requests from an eighth grader and ninth grader due to capacity issues.

Superintendent Jon Laffoon explained that the Arkansas LEARNS Act requires school districts to look at each student transfer request individually. If there is space for a student, Laffoon said he will approve those administratively. However, if there is not space, those requests will come before the school board for consideration.

Laffoon and his administration team recommended that seven requests be denied because of capacity.

The board voted on each request individually and denied all seven. These requests were from a kindergarten student, second grader, third grader, sixth grader, eighth grader, ninth grader and an eleventh grader.

A parent has the right to appeal any denial to the State Board of Education.

As the board discussed the transfers, Laffoon said a lot of whether there is space for a student depends on the order in which the transfer request is received.

"In the next week, we could have two seventh graders move out," he said.

At the junior high level, Laffoon said teachers are allowed to have a total of 150 students throughout the day. The administration looks at specific classes, such as core courses, when determining if there is capacity for a transfer student in the upper grades.

The state says that a class or grade is considered at capacity at 95% for out-of-district transfers to leave room for new students moving into the district.

The junior high opened up the new year with more students than expected, Laffoon said after the meeting.

"The junior high is jammed," Laffoon said.

In fact, he said the student growth overall has been a "little overwhelming." Farmington has grown by 62-100 students a year in recent years. For 2023-24, that growth right now is about 185 students, according to Laffoon.

Farmington ended the 2022-23 school year with an enrollment of 2,685. The enrollment on Aug. 28 was 2,858. Laffoon said the school will have a better idea of enrollment by Oct. 1.

For kindergarten, Farmington is adding a new kindergarten class at Folsom Elementary School because of increased enrollment. A kindergarten class can only have 20 students and between the two elementary schools in Farmington, there are 17 additional kindergarten students. The school is using paraprofessionals for the extra students until a kindergarten teacher is hired.

In other action, the School Board approved the 2023-24 budget as presented by Laffoon. The district has a beginning balance of $1.72 million. It proposes to receive $27.2 million in revenue with $27.15 million in expenses, leaving an expected year-end balance of $1.77 million.

This compares to $26 million in actual revenue and $25.8 million in actual expenses for 2022-23.

For expenses this year, the budget shows an increase in the teacher salary fund from $11 million in 2022-23 to $12.5 million in 2023-24. The board approved salary increases in the spring as a result of the new LEARNS Act that required all districts to pay a minimum $50,000 teacher salary.

Laffoon said he believes the district will be able to sustain the budget for salaries because of an increase in property assessments in Washington County and money from the LEARNS Act.

Other expenses include almost $4 million for benefits for employees, $1.55 million for classified salaries, $1.5 million for operating costs, about $1.3 million for utilities and insurance and $930,000 for custodial fees. Another $500,000 is budgeted to be transferred to the building fund at the end of the year,

Projected revenue includes $13 million from state equalization aid, $9.1 million from property taxes, $1 million from Act 79 and $692,933 from teacher raise funding from the state.

Laffoon said the budget includes hiring two certified commission school security officers for the elementary schools.

Laffoon said he has received a preliminary property assessment report from Washington County, and property in the school district's boundaries has increased in value from $269 million to $329 million. While this will bring in more revenue in property taxes, he said it also means the school district will see a millage rollback, probably of about 1.6 mills.

He said he would know more about this in January 2024.

In other action, the School Board approved:

An additional $74,133 for the custodial contract for SG360 because of the pre-K program and the two additions at the junior high school.

A bid from Howard Technology Solutions to purchase 30 computers for $26,877 for the high school computer science lab. The school will be reimbursed this money from a computer science grant.

A memorandum of understanding with Arkansas River Education Service Cooperative for virtual instruction for $2,000 per student. Presently, one junior high student is using this program.

A memorandum of understanding with the Arkansas Department of Career Education/NorthWest Community College for career coach services and activities.

Print Headline: Enrollment growing at Farmington schools


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