The Regional Report: Yawning deficit a challenge for Aitkin schools

Although not yet finalized, the levy likely to be brought to voters would ask for funding equal to $850,000 to $900,000 annually for the next decade.

Aitkinwatertower - Chelsey Perkins.JPG
The Aitkin water tower outside the Aitkin County Courthouse. Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch file photo

An $800,000 deficit headed into the 2021-22 school year is just one of the challenges facing the Aitkin School District, which plans to seek voter approval of a capital projects levy this fall, the Aitkin Independent Age reported Wednesday, May 26.

Declining enrollment and reductions in state aid are contributing factors to the district’s financial woes. Although not yet finalized, the levy likely to be brought to voters would ask for funding equal to $850,000 to $900,000 annually for the next decade. Staffing cuts have begun in an attempt to chip away at the deficit, the Age reported.

Superintendent Dan Stifter addressed a land purchase for a new school he said still upsets the community during the school board meeting Monday. Stifter said even if the district sold the land at the purchase price, it would raise $750,000, not enough to cover this next school year’s deficit alone.


Four longtime teachers in the Crosby-Ironton School District with a combined experience of 113 years are headed to retirement, the Crosby-Ironton Courier reported Wednesday, May 26.

Among the retirees are Ann Marie Bertram, a first grade teacher of 37 years; Sue Tesdahl, a social studies teacher of 33 years; Randy Swanhorst, a health/physical education teacher of 28 years; and Char Saley, a math teacher of 15 years.


Mille Lacs County

After losing its county administrator recently, Mille Lacs County also accepted the resignation of its assistant county administrator Holly Wilson, the Mille Lacs Messenger reported Wednesday, May 26.

When Administrator Pat Oman submitted his resignation, it kicked off a discussion within the county board to transition to a county coordinator position rather than an administrator. They described this change as making the post “more hands-on,” according to the Messenger. Wilson told county commissioners she would not accept an appointment to interim county coordinator and would instead leave the county to take another position elsewhere.

The county board agreed to have an emergency meeting to address the matter, where they offered the interim position on an as-needed basis to Lisa Herges, former Mille Lacs County personnel director and current Renville County administrator. Herges accepted the position at $60 per hour, but said she had no intention of remaining in the position permanently or leaving her job at Renville County.

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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