Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Natascha Watercott
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Willow River revises 2018 budget


At the March 20 Willow River school board meeting, the board approved a revised 2018 budget and a $200,000 budget reduction for 2019. Superintendent/Elementary Principal Bill Peel explained the district will need to reduce spending for 2019 due mainly to declining student enrollment. It was noted that during the past two years, the district has been using the fund balance to equalize the budget. The board has set a goal to maintain a minimum unassigned general fund balance of 35 percent of the annual budget.

“Looking at our student pupil count, and now looking at the revised budget, we are going to have to have budget reductions next year,” said Peel. “We’re looking at trying to save money in every aspect; however, 80 to 85 percent of our budget is personnel, so that means we will have staff reductions next year.”

Board member Dave Prachar noted that Willow River is not the only school district dealing with declining enrollment. “It seems like it’s happening to everyone for whatever reason,” he said.

Business manager Laura Carlson briefly went over the original 2018 budget and pointed out the district is not receiving as much money as they originally thought, largely due to the estimated pupil count for 2018 being too high when they made the budget. They are looking at about a $226,000 loss compared to their original 2018 budget.

There were increased costs in other areas as well, especially in the food service fund. Carlson explained that they originally thought that they would have a $3,000 loss in food service, but food costs have gone up significantly, especially fruit and vegetable prices, and they are now looking at a $24,000 loss in that fund.

Students to lead unity activity

High School Principal Gregg Campbell announced that student leaders from Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) and student council had approached him and Peel about participating in one of the national school walkout days in April to honor the 17 students who were lost during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The students explained they wanted to do something to stress school unity and anti-bullying and raise awareness in a positive way.

Campbell stated the students who had talked to him wanted to participate in more meaningful activities rather than simply a school-wide walkout, potentially including a moment of silence, visiting classrooms and doing an activity with students and possibly inviting someone from Pine County’s Department of Public Safety to speak to students.

“To have student leaders come to administration with that plan, I thought was commendable and something I wanted to acknowledge publicly because that’s pretty cool,” said Campbell. “It was really important to the students that talked to me that we included elementary students in the process without it being a scary topic,” he continued, explaining that they wanted to positively engage the younger students without focusing on violence and instead focus on unity.

Campbell commended the students for the thought they put into the event and said that it speaks volumes about the type of students they have there. “It kind of goes back to why Willow River; why do we send our kids to Willow River, because this is the kind of student leadership we have here, and some of our extracurricular programs really do a good job building those relationships,” said Campbell.

The students were granted permission to hold a sit-in and/or awareness training in April for one hour of the day.

2018 calendar changed

Due to missing a school day from a power outage, the Willow River School District is required to make up a student day. Peel recommended that the board amend the school calendar; they will change May 31 from an early release day to a full day and add June 1 to the calendar as an early release day and as the last student day. Peel noted they are required by law to have a minimum of 170 school days.


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