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Budget picture brightens for WDC school board

Wadena-Deer Creek's school budget for 2017-2018 has resembled a house of cards in recent months.

That news was sweetened a bit Monday evening at the board's May meeting.

The Minnesota State Legislature, which has a history of keeping school districts across the state on tenterhooks each spring, has passed a 1.5 percent increase in school spending giving WDC Superintendent Lee Westrum and his staff a rudimentary idea of what kind of budget they can contemplate.

The district's projected surplus is presently at $118,405. The district's actual general fund balance for 2016 was a deficit of $434,733.

The education-friendly roadblock to the legislation now is Governor Mark Dayton, who has sent the legislation back and asked the House and Senate to cough up more funding for education.

Westrum told WDC board members he does not think the increase will drop any lower than 1.5 percent and could increase to 2 percent.

"If the state makes it 2 percent we'll have a $150,000 surplus."

The board is expected to take action on the 2017-2018 budget at their June 5 meeting in the Robertson Theatre.

Westrum still believes the school board will have to consider asking for November vote on an operating levy increase for the district "if we want to keep what we have."

The board accepted the resignation of first-grade instructor Jared Hotakainen who has taken a position in New York Mills.

The administration is planning to move one of the kindergarten teachers up to the first grade. The administration would also like to add a fifth-grade teacher because of this year's large fourth-grade class.

Elementary Principal Louis Rutten told the board that 68 children have signed up for the kindergarten class next fall. The administration has expectations of adding 10-15 students by September.

A phased retirement agreement with Vicki Schmitz, which was approved by the board is expected to save the district $24,000.

Added to the district payroll were Sarah Steinkopf (Preschool) and Susan Tast (Food Service).

Bids for the house/cabin built by Mike Shrode's carpentry class this year did not materialize at Monday's meeting. The group built the cabin-sized 28x40 house to gain practical experience. The board extended the bidding process to June 5. If no bids are submitted the structure will be sold by negotiation.

A Vocational Rehab agreement was approved, along with a resolution for membership in the Minnesota State High School League.