Willmar School Board to begin budget-cutting process at Monday, Jan. 9, meeting

A drop in enrollment is leading the Willmar School Board to ask its administrators to look at ways to reduce spending for the next school year.

A file photo of the Willmar Public Schools sign at the Willmar Education and Arts Center, where the administration offices are located.
Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune file photo
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WILLMAR — A resolution on the Willmar School Board agenda could lay the groundwork for budget cuts in the spring.

The board meets at 4:30 p.m. Monday in the rehearsal hall of the Willmar Education and Arts Center.

The board will hold its reorganizational meeting before its regular meeting Monday. The meeting includes election of officers and designating meeting dates, depositories and the official newspaper.

The agenda for the regular meeting includes a resolution directing the administration to make recommendations on programming and staffing for the next school year. If it’s adopted, it orders district leaders to study the district’s finances and enrollment and propose changes,

Willmar’s enrollment fell at the beginning of the pandemic and has not fully recovered. It’s a common issue for public schools in Minnesota and nationwide.


However, schools receive most of their funding from the state, and the state bases its aid to schools on the number of students.

At the board’s December meeting, enrollment was reported to be 4,093 in grades K-12, 125 fewer students than at the same time a year ago.

Education Minnesota, the state's largest education union, sponsors the annual Teacher of the Year honor. Three area teachers are among the 131 candidates announced this week.

The district’s financial statements list average daily enrollment of 4,142 in the 2021-22 school year; 4,085 students in 2020-21; and 4,261 students in 2019-20.

Pandemic relief aid has helped schools maintain their operations in some ways. However, much of the aid has expired, and what remains has limited uses.

The resolution asks administrators to determine whether some programs or staff positions must be reduced or discontinued.

The board will also hear reports from administrators and accept a list of gifts and donations.

The board sets aside time to listen to comments from the public twice during its meetings. Comments on agenda items are allowed at the beginning of the meeting. Comments not related to the agenda are accepted at the end of the meeting.

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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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