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Next budget for Willmar, Minn., School District reflects efforts to close achievement gap in schools

WILLMAR -- An all-out effort to close the achievement gap in Willmar's schools will have an impact on the budget for the next school year.

The Willmar School Board adopted the fiscal year 2013 budget this week, with general fund expenditures of $44.1 million, a 3 percent increase. The new budget will go into effect on July 1.

The budget projects general fund revenue of $42.3 million, an increase of 1.3 percent. The undesignated general fund balance will be used to make up the difference.

The general fund covers operating expenses of the district.

Business and Finance Director Pam Harrington said she expected the general fund balance to end the year at about $4.3 million, 10 percent of general fund expenditures. The board's goal is to maintain a balance of at least 6 percent. The balance at the end of this fiscal year is expected to be 13.4 percent.

An additional administrative position to work with teachers on improving instruction has been added to the budget, as well two English Language Learner instructors and two instructional coaches for the elementary schools.

A new assistant principal in the elementary schools will be needed to implement a state-required teacher evaluation system.

Union contracts will also cause an increase in expenses in the coming year, particularly the cost of adding 30 minutes to the workday for teachers.

State aid will increase $50 per pupil in the basic formula. A new literacy aid will bring $215,600 to the district. That money will be used to hire the ELL teachers and instructional coaches.

School districts are required by state law to have their budgets in place before the beginning of the new fiscal year. However, parts of the budget are based on estimates, and it does not include the amounts of various federal or state grants which may be awarded later.

School districts generally adopt a revised budget at mid-year to reflect grants and aid that wasn't anticipated in June.

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

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