The Wrenshall School Board unanimously approved its 2020-21 budget — a budget that includes a nearly $5 million deficit — during its meeting Monday, June 15.

The eye-popping deficit is deceptive because of the $9.2 million health and safety renovation project approved by the board, according to Wrenshall business manager Angela Anderson.

“The budget that I'm asking you guys to approve tonight has a $4,996,501 deficit,” Anderson said. “I know that sounds really scary, but that's simply because we received the $9.2 million for the construction project in this fiscal year. So in fiscal year ‘20, we're going to have a really big surplus and our fiscal year ‘21, which is the one I'm budgeting for, we're going to be spending that money. So on paper, it's a deficit for that year.”

Phase one of the renovation project started earlier this year. Planned improvements include replacing the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at the school and making some fire suppression upgrades.

Excluding the construction deficit, Wrenshall actually projects a $53,499 surplus for the district overall and was based on a “conservative” estimate of 375 students next year, Anderson said.

The district did show small deficits in its food service and community education programs, something board treasurer Janaki Fisher-Merritt said they needed to “work on.”

The deficits for the two funds — which total $63,608 — will be deducted from the school’s general fund. Wrenshall’s general unassigned fund showed a balance of $225,300 after the audit of the 2018-19 school year, according to the Minnesota Department of Education.

New contract approved for superintendent

The Wrenshall board also approved a new three-year contract for Superintendent Kim Belcastro.

Board member Warren Weiderman asked the board to table the vote because he had only received the contract just before the meeting started and had not read the seven-page document.

Fellow board member Matthew Laveau acknowledged he had only made the changes earlier Monday and had sent the document just before the meeting, however none of the other board members supported Weiderman’s motion to table.

Belcastro’s contract will keep her with the district until June 30, 2023. The new contract will pay Belcastro $117,262 in 2020-21, a 2% increase plus an additional bump after she informed the board she planned to seek private insurance for next year instead of going through the school’s program. The contract also calls for a 2% increase in 2021-22 and a 1.5% increase in 2022-23. In the final year of the contract, Belcastro will earn $121,401.

Weiderman abstained from the vote because he said he had not had an opportunity to read the contract, but the other five board members voted in favor of the new deal.

This story was updated at 9 a.m. on June 17 to include information from Superintendent Kim Belcastro's new contract. It was originally posted at 6:30 p.m. on June 16.