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Willmar School Board to begin discussing up to $2 million in budget cuts Monday

WILLMAR -- A list of about $2 million in potential budget cuts will be revealed at the Willmar School Board meeting at 4:30 p.m. Monday at the Willmar Education and Arts Center.

The budget reductions are the only discussion item on the agenda at the workshop meeting. The board is expected to discuss the cuts several times before making final decisions in March.

School administrators have been working to develop the list for the past two months.

It will not be revealed to the public until the meeting on Monday.

A year ago, the district cut $2.8 million from its operating budget of about $40 million. The action included a reorganization of the district. Two smaller buildings were closed, and a seven-room addition was built at Roosevelt Elementary to fit all elementary students into two buildings.

The district also delayed major technology and curriculum purchases a year ago.

This year, Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard has said the district needs to cut at least $1.4 million from the budget, but it could be as much as $3 million.

Kjergaard has told the board that this year's cuts will be much more painful to make, because so many cuts have been made in recent years.

Willmar, like other districts in the state, faces the combined strain of inflation, soaring insurance rates and no significant increases in state aid for a decade.

A wild card in this year's budget discussions is how the state's budget deficit will affect school districts.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty last year ordered a delay in paying 27 percent of school districts' annual state aid in the current fiscal year.

Pawlenty said that the 27 percent would be paid in the next fiscal year, to help with the state's cash flow. However, there is no provision in state law to require that the money be sent to the schools next year.

School districts were recently notified that state may delay regular aid payments in March and April. The payments would be withheld to help the state deal with its cash flow problems, but the delay could cause cash flow problems for many districts. Statute requires that the money be paid by June 20.

The board meeting will be recorded and televised on WRAC Channel 19 at 9 p.m. Monday and at noon and 9 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.

Linda Vanderwerf

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