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Federal money insulated Willmar from 2010 budget cuts, will be felt in 2011-12

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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- The Willmar School District was insulated from the impact of last year's budget cuts through a one-time infusion of more than $900,000 in federal money.

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However, most of that money is now gone.

The district spent $737,000 this year to hire classroom teachers to keep a lid on class sizes. A variety of other instructional staff members were hired to work with students who were struggling in reading and math.

That's what the federal government ordered when Congress approved the EdJobs special appropriation for education in August 2010, according to Business and Finance Director Pam Harrington. The remainder of Willmar's money, about $176,000, will be used in the next school year.

Harrington pointed out the impact of EdJobs when the School Board looked at a revision to the 2010-11 budget this week. Revenue and expenditures increased because of the federal funding. The district has overall revenue and expenditures of about $50 million. The general fund, which covers day-to-day operations, has revenue and expenditures of about $42 million.

School districts usually have to revise their budgets during the year, because they must adopt each year's budget in June, before the fiscal year begins on July 1. However, information about revenue and expenditures keeps coming throughout the year, so budget revisions are common.

In the case of this year, the spending for salaries and benefits increased because of EdJobs.

"The purpose was to create jobs to increase achievement," Harrington said. "I was very proud that that's what Willmar chose to spend the money for."

Some districts used the money to build up their fund balances, she added. Some others used them to pay employees who were already on staff.

In a previous interview about the EdJobs money, Superintended Jerry Kjergaard said that he was comfortable with how the district spent the money. "We knew the money was for a year or two, and we tried to do as much as we could with it," he said.

It was Kjergaard's idea to hire intensive instructors to work with students who were struggling in their classes. "We tried to do it like medical -- diagnose and treat," he said.

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West Central Tribune (320) 235-6769 customer support

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340
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