Cost per student Mercer $20,146,
Wis. $12,942, Nation $10,667
ACT comp. score Mercer 17.0,
Wis. 19.6, Lakeland UHS 20.0,
Hurley 18.7; perfect score 36.0
Mercer DPI Report Card score
lowest of all 421 Wis. schools

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The 2019-20 School Budget
“We must consult our means rather than our wishes,” said George Washington in discussing the budgetary process more than 200 years ago.

But over the past decade the Mercer School District has given little regard to the “means’ of taxpayers and instead the budgetary process focused solely on the “wishes” of an inane administration and a compliant school board.  As a result, the education of the children suffered, and thousands of taxpayer dollars were wasted.

That can change with the new school board president, four of five new board members and a new administrator.  By now they should have completed the 2019-20 school year budgeting process which should focus on wise and honest spending in order to provide a sadly needed better education for the children.

In the past the wasting of taxpayer dollars has included paying the former administrator far in excess of what his contract allowed, paying the salaries for two business managers, and unexplained credit card purchases.  

Much of the wasted funds – usually over $200,000 per year in Community Services Fund 80 spending -- has gone toward building a patronage system and buying the loyalty and silence of select school staff members.  By providing free meals and other perks to beneficiaries of the patronage system, they could be relied upon to blindly support the administration and school board when ordered to do so.

Poor management of school tax dollars also resulted in a costly $125,000 settlement with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for the misuse of Fund 80.  (An additional $37,000 was spent in legal fees.)  And about $100,000 was paid to a law firm for questionable services much of which were never authorized by the school board.  

Despite this very high level of spending Mercer ranks in the very last place of the state’s school districts by the DPI with its annual School Report Card scores.  It has also been well below the state and national averages with its ACT composite scores.

While Mercer ranks among the highest of the state’s 422 school districts in the cost for educating each child, it ranks near the very bottom of the list in academic results.  It cost $20,146 a year to educate each Mercer student, compared with a state average of $12,942 and national average of $10,667. The average annual all-inclusive cost for educating a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is $22,082.

These are just some of the taxpayer dollars misspent which the new school board and administrator should focus on in preparing the 2019-20 budget.  When the budget is presented, we will know if they addressed these issues.


  1. Close the this money pit already and send the students elsewhere to get a much better education.

  2. I saw the proposed budget today in the Iron County Miner. My question is the amount left in the fund balance. If I remember correctly the District had nearly a million dollars in the fund balance at the time they were contemplating the new roof project and were borrowing money to pay for it, which I am fairly certain they did. There were questions and criticisms regarding borrowing money when we had the money in the bank. Now we will be down to a little ver $200k if this proposed budget passes. Does anyone else wonder where $800k dollars has gone? I would assume this money can only be moved to the general fund by board discussion and action.
    I also read the approval and payment of an old invoice to the engineering firm regarding recommendations on needed improvements. I remember hearing that this was costing nothing at the time. Am I mistaken?

  3. Yes,the fund balance was nearly $1 million 5 years ago. During my 3 years on the board we were never involved in the budget planning. In fact I did not get my copy of the budget until Fri preceding the annual meeting year 2 and 3. Finally last year we held a "meeting of the board" in a public meeting because I pushed the issue that the board should ask our budgetary questions in public NOT in Torkelson's office, where we were forced to do so previously! (I refused to do this year 2).
    After meeting with the accountant in Feb 2019 (when Deanna, Micki and Noel did not attend), the accountant said the year end balance for 2018-19 of $600+ was a normal, safe balance for our districts size. So again, where did all the money go? Let's see!!!!
    1) Torkelsons admitted over payments for 6 years including him justifying those overpayments with bonuses (I have the paper work and emails to prove it) WOULD THE BOARD LIKE THEM? MS. Gerbig was made aware of this by me in April.
    2) Increase of TOTAL COACHING CONTRACTS in 2010 equal $17k to over $75k in 2018/19.(direct increase of total cost of athletics as well).
    3) A lead Janitor/custodian making over $50k,(plus benis) he's NOT AN ENGINEER people!!
    4) Two business managers totalling more than $115k, one to do payroll. I believe the board addressed direct deposit payroll policy recently, (directly related to a staff member getting "PAYCHECKS INSTEAD"), why TWO BUSINESS MANAGERS??
    5) Excessive spending with Sporting goods apparel, over $29k in one year(I have all payments as proof).
    6) Administrative Assistant position pay nearly DOUBLE what Ms. Kichak made after her years of dedication, (with no experience On DAY 1!)
    The lack of preparedness of our young people for their future from this school is HEARTBREAKING and I feel CRIMINAL!! And for those who claimed "I was wrecking the school", I think it's real obvious who is and those folks are "All In!"

  4. Bravo for Christa who speaks the truth. We would still have her on the School Board serving us taxpayers except for a smear campaign run by Brundage (aka Micah Migma), Pierpont and the rest of that mob. Shame on them.

  5. YOU ROCK CHRISTA!!!!! I think the new board should be aware of the shady dealings that were held behind closed doors! I think they should see the facts and figures that Christa has!! Some people don't have a brain! They are just out for self gain!! Wake up people and quit being taken advantage of!! You know what they say..."Stupid i n the morning, stupid all day!"

  6. All of this is old news. The new board is aware of this. Why do you think we have a new board? Yes, the old board was horrible and did shady things. Everybody knows it. Let the new board do it’s work to correct it.

  7. You can now call the Mercer School the Kopka School. The two of them run the place like it’s their own. Horrible place— no sense of family concern for anyone— such a shame. Used to be the school with a big heart. Good staff and families talking about leaving, kids run free. My child never comes home with homework anymore, which he likes to do, schedules completely changed the second week of school with no parental input and the stories of disrespect I hear from him are horrible. Things need to change.

    1. Close the school already. It would be the humane thing to do.