The Wadena-Deer Creek board ushered out the 2016 portion of the current school year Friday by approving a final payable 2017 levy increase of 3.24 percent.
In dollars, the increase calls for a tax boost of $1,334,220. The present levy is actually less than one of $1,581,000 which the board approved five years ago.
Certified Public Accountant Jon Archer of Schlenner, Wenner and Company presented the board with an audit report which reflected an ending fund balance of $3,245,195.
Figures show District 2155 has an unassigned fund balance of $981,000 - an amount which Westrum said would allow the school to operate for one month without the need to borrow money. Ideally, districts are asked to have three months of operating funds available.
One area of the school's financial picture that has Westrum concerned is a deficit of $434,000 in the general fund.
"It's been a conscious effort by the board," Westrum before going on to explain some of the reasons the board has adopted a deficit spending strategy. Keeping class sizes small is one and offering a late bus for students involved in extracurricular activities is another.
Westrum believes the deficit funding strategy will continue but he has hopes that the deficit amount can be reduced.
"We can't continue to deficit spend $434,000," Westrum said.
Dan Husted of Lake Region Electric Cooperative presented the board with a proposal that could save the district money by converting the Deer Creek heating plant from fuel oil to natural gas. LREC and the Greater Minnesota Transmission LLC have tentative plans of running a natural gas line to Parkers Prairie and Deer Creek. Before proceeding, a commitment by the largest potential gas users in the two communities is needed. Westrum said the district would have to finance a burner conversion cost between $20,000 and $25,000 and make a three-year commitment to use the natural gas product.
The board agreed to take the proposal up again at their Jan. 17 meeting when outgoing board members Peter Hayes and Steve Techam will turn their chairs over to Dan Lawson and Vince Hinojos.
Westrum was given the green light to pay a special assessment to the City of Wadena of $148,918.02 for work on Community Center Drive. Westrum plans to take the money from the district's building fund.
The board approved retirement requests by second-grade teacher Junelle Jackson, a 34-year veteran and past VFW Teacher of the Year and Joyce Boyne, a district bookkeeper with 48 years of service. They also approved the resignation of Kids' Club Para Jessica Tabatt.