Community task force to have a hand in budget-cutting process for Willmar Public Schools

Falling enrollment and the end of pandemic relief funds have resulted in a need for budget cuts at Willmar Public Schools. A community task force will have a hand in making the recommendations.

WCT STOCK School buses
Students walk to class after exiting Willmar school buses in this undated file photo.
West Central Tribune file photo

WILLMAR — A community task force will be asked to help with a plan to cut the Willmar Public Schools budget for the 2023-24 school year.

The School Board’s Finance Committee met Friday morning to begin the process.

There’s no dollar amount for the potential cuts yet. School leaders had thought it could be as much as $5 million but now expect it to be “significantly less,” Assistant Superintendent Bill Adams said Tuesday morning.

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Willmar Public Schools assistant superintendent Bill Adams poses for a portrait at Lakeland Elementary School on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

The board at its January meeting adopted a resolution directing administrators to review the district’s operations and make recommendations. Lower enrollment and the dwindling of supplemental pandemic relief funding have put the district in the position of needing to reduce its budget. The last time the district made major cuts was spring 2016.

Public school enrollment fell early in the pandemic and has not recovered. It’s a nationwide issue, affecting school districts throughout Minnesota.


Administrators expect to know more about the final amount to be cut next week, Adams said.

The district’s current 2022-23 budget projects expenses of $67.6 million in the general fund, which covers most operating costs of the school district.

The budget for the next school year will be adopted in June, before the fiscal year begins July 1.

The state requires schools to adopt budgets before the fiscal year begins, but districts generally don’t have full information about grants and other funding at that time. The current budget will most likely be revised with new information this spring.

The administration plans to develop a community-wide task force to meet three times about the cuts.

The task force is expected to include a cross-section of the community, including parents, students, administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals, custodians, clergy, retirees, business owners, families and educators.

The task force would learn about school finance and the district’s financial position at the first meeting. Identifying priorities in the community and the schools would be the focus of the second meeting. At the third meeting, the task force would review budget proposals with an eye toward the priorities set earlier.

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The timeline would lead to the board taking action on the reductions in April, Adams said.


In addition to the task force meetings, internal meetings are planned at school building sites to explain the process and keep people informed.

Adams said the amount to be cut from the budget is expected to be lower than initially thought for a few reasons — there is some pandemic relief money still available, and more families are eligible for free and reduced-price meals, which brings additional aid to the district. And another point of discussion will be Minnesota's multibillion-dollar surplus that could result in more funding for schools.

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: or phone 320-214-4340
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