Cutting again: WDC board expects to pare $590,000

The dead silence in the Wadena-Deer Creek School Board chambers last Tuesday night reflected the serious situation that the district once again faces in dealing with budget cuts.

The dead silence in the Wadena-Deer Creek School Board chambers last Tuesday night reflected the serious situation that the district once again faces in dealing with budget cuts.

It was new school board chairwoman Ann Pate who took a stab at putting the thoughts of all concerned into words.

"The difficult part of this is that we have gone through three or four years now of huge cuts and to do this again is just a reminder that it isn't just the school that has to deal with cuts, this vibrates out into the community and these are not easy decisions to make," Pate said.

Before the meeting was over, the board had approved a motion to plan for $590,000 worth of cuts in the upcoming school year.

The figure is $100,000 higher than the projected budget deficit and would give the board some money in the general fund for expenses once the cuts are made.


The board, which currently has an unreserved general fund balance of $253,421, has to make decisions for the coming school year in a climate of great uncertainty. State funding for education, in a time when the state is facing a $5 billion budget deficit, may be cut. The state currently provides districts with $5,000 per pupil to meet their nine-month educational requirements. The greatest share of the state budget -- 40 percent -- has annually gone to education.

"I don't know of course what the governor and the legislature is going to do but I don't think whatever might be done is going to impact our current budget," WDC Business Manager Jerry Anderson said. "But next year is of course the big question mark."

What is known, according to Dahlstrom, is that schools will see a reduction in federal funding for special education.

Projected expenditures for the coming school year is $9,822,178, which includes some inflation of a portion of the expenditures and another increase in energy, which leaves the district with a deficit of $31,445 in the projected fund balance.

WDC superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom was asked for her recommendation.

"One of the sessions I attended suggested that it is going to be worse than better, that we are going to have to plan for worse times, than better," Dahlstrom said.

Anderson presented the school board with three options and the matter was discussed with all five board members present voicing their thoughts.

Board member Dan Toedter thought Anderson's $690,000 plan would be a realistic goal but board member Wayne Perkins believed that cutting that amount would hit programs too hard.


Dahlstrom, when asked for her recommendation said, "cutting programs and bringing them back is very, very difficult but at times you have to be more conservative and this is one where we need to be more conservative."

Anderson was also asked for his advice. Anderson, who deals with facts and figures, pointed out that a projected decrease of 40 students in next K-12 enrollment places severe limits on the board's options. The projected enrollment for next year is 1,042.

"There is no place to come up with the kind of money that we have to come up with without people," Anderson said.

The trend in class size will be a gradual reduction. WDC will graduate 111 seniors this spring. The projected enrollment of next year's kindergarten is 66.

The greatest portion of the district's expenses is teacher's salaries.

"Our average teaching staff person is around $55-57,000 with benefits." Anderson said.

A WDC school board committee meets annually with teachers union negotiators in August.

Fuel costs are also a big portion of the annual budget. Anderson based his projections on higher fuel rates.

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