Wadena-Deer Creek’s final levy for 2022 stayed steady with “few significant changes” from previous years, as district business manager Brian Jacobson shared with school board members on Monday, Dec. 20.

The levy of $2,124,204.57 is an increase of 1.26%. The 2021 levy was a decrease of 1.23%. The levy is set by the state based on formulas and the number of students served, as Jacobson explained.

“The reason for our property taxes and state aids is to fund the education of our students,” Jacobson said.

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The increases include the general fund of $50,666 (4.04%) and community service fund of $24,669 (42.69%). The debt service fund decreased by $48,876 (-6.22%). Jacobson said the total dollar value is more important than the percentage change. The levy does not apply towards the food service fund.

The community service fund increased due to expenses for school age daycare that came in higher than the previously levied amount. The district levies prior to the expenses and adjusts as the actual expenses are finalized.

No public members shared during the Truth in Taxation meeting. The board unanimously approved the 2022 final levy of $2,124,204.57. School board member Pete Hayes was not present at the meeting.

COVID updates

Both the elementary and middle/high school have seen a low number of COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks. There have been about one to two cases at each school, according to Superintendent Lee Westrum. The district updates their COVID-19 dashboard on Fridays on the school website.

With the omicron variant spreading worldwide, Westrum said he is “concerned” about the nature of the variant and how it could impact the schools. As scientists learn more about the variant, omicron seems to spread more easily from person to person, though less severe effects are possible. The school environment of buses, classrooms and sports could make this challenging.

“Even if it’s (omicron) less severe, because of the high level of unvaccination that we have in our communities, we’re still going to see people landing in the hospital even if they only have like a low level of need,” said Joel Beiswenger, Tri-County Health Care president and CEO.

After the court lifted the injunction on the federal vaccine mandate with emergency temporary standards from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), policies are expected to be in place by Jan. 10. Appeals have also been submitted to the Supreme Court. OSHA sets rules for the health and safety of United States workers.

While awaiting more guidance, the district will begin preparing for the mandate by having staff members submit a photo of their vaccine cards to school nurses. Beiswenger said the staff vaccination rate since mid-September, when the OSHA and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services rule discussions began, has increased from 65 to 82%.

RELATED ARTICLE: Wadena-Deer Creek far from out of the 'COVID-19' woods

The board will enact a policy following OSHA rules with guidance from the Minnesota School Board Association. The standard would state employees must be vaccinated or be tested weekly and wear a mask if they are not vaccinated. The district will have testing available at the school and encourage testing at the Wadena Armory for as long as it is available.

The board also:

  • Congratulated the cast and crew of “Wizard of Oz” for their wonderful performance and work on the sets for the fall musical. Drama director and English teacher Beth Hawkins said she was “incredibly impressed” with the students who practiced for about one month.

  • Approved paying the district’s bills totaling $488,608.25.

  • Approved donations to the district totaling $200.

  • Approved the hires of Jane Goetze (Elementary Paraprofessional) and Terry Olson (Head Nordic Ski Coach).

  • Approved the retirements/resignations of Mikalia Lynch (Elementary Paraprofessional) and Ronda Schmitz (Food Service).

  • Approved the bus drivers, confidential and superintendent contract agreements.

  • Approved voting for Judith Moeller of Parkers Prairie in the Minnesota Rural Education Association Board of Directors election. The administration, teachers and school board each receive a vote. All voted for Moeller.

  • Approved a resolution that asks Congress to fully fund services as was outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Act in 1975. Board member Ryan Damlo, as a member of the MSBA Delegate Assembly, said funds should be provided as promised about 50 years ago. Westrum said special education is “very important.”

  • Discussed moving items from the Deer Creek school, including old pianos and keyboards that will be sold. A new storage unit will also be added at the high school for other items.