Cost per student Mercer $26,433,
Wis. $13,505, Nation $11,762
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. districts

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Annual School District Meeting


Mercer could very well have its own version of the 1950’s popular hit song “What a Difference a Day Makes” *, and it could be entitled “What a Difference a Few Years Make”.

This was evident at Monday night’s Annual School District meeting when only 13 people attended, in stark contrast with the hundreds who would jam the meeting hall just a few years ago.   And it was a tranquil meeting, compared with the turbulent 2017 meeting when obscenities were shouted by a school board member and another board member charged, in a threatening manner, at a senior citizen who was calmly asking the board to address the problem of the school’s low ACT scores.

There are probably several reasons for the meager attendance Monday night.  The meeting was held “in person” and people may have stayed away for fear of the rising Covid-19 virus cases in Iron County,  (The meeting was held in the school’s gymnasium with seating eight feet apart and face masks required.) Or it could because there was nothing controversial about the budget hearing portion of the meeting.  Then, too, residents may be pleased with the performance of the “new” school board and administrator and saw no need to attend.

A 2020-21 budget was presented which will result in a small 1.5% increase in total expenditures, rising $53,311 from $3,487,802 in 2019-20 to $3,541,113 in 2020-21.  A slight decrease in school taxes will result from an increase in property valuation in the school district and a slightly lower levy rate.  The budget set the annual tax levy at $2,251,298, dropping the millage rate slightly to 4.74% from 4.82% last year.

Unlike in previous years when the annual meeting date was always set for the last Monday in October, the electors voted to give the board the authority to set next year’s meeting date at least by the time of the board’s June meeting. Under state law, the annual meeting must be held before October 31.  Some of the data needed by the board to finalize a budget is normally not available until shortly before that deadline. 

The only issue of concern at Monday night’s meeting were some items on the Community Services Fund 80 budget.  The School Board has budgeted $157,720 for 2020-21 Fund 80, compared with $120,874 actually spent in 2019-20.  The controversial free meals for the public and payments to  Paw Shop volunteers remain in the new budget, but the administrator and board were asked to examine  DPI rules and state statutes to determine that the criteria for use is being met. 

It was also voted to increase the board members’ annual salaries from $2,500 to $3,000. A proposal to reduce it to $2,000 was defeated.

*“What a Difference a Day Makes”is an English translation of MarĂ­a Grever’s 1934 Spanish-language song “Cuando vuelva a tu lado”. The English version was first recorded that same year and has been redone many times since, though Dinah Washington’s 1959 version is the most famous.


  1. Mercer School FactsOctober 28, 2020 at 6:16 PM

    For full coverage of the annual meeting read the Iron County Miner. Editor Ricky Kelly was the only reporter at the meeting and, as she usually does, provides a complete report.

  2. The real story is what is happening to the number of students, how many kids in a class, especially specials, and what are the future projections. 1% increase in budget yet 10% decrease in number of students— all within one year? What are the future projections?

  3. I am happy the finances are corrected from the previous School Board. What exactly has THIS School Board and Administrator done differently to improve the quality of education? I would like to see a list of those accomplishments especially if the student class sizes has dropped.

  4. My kids go to this school. I don’t see how any of the kids are benefiting. Still waiting........

  5. It’s encouraging that some parents seem to be commenting about the school’s academics. But where were they when the kids were being deprived of an education under Torkelson and the former corrupt school board?

    1. There were several posts expressing frustration around student achievement prior to the changes. This isn’t new. A lot of us who still have kids at Mercer have been vocal and still no improvements around education. Notice more families are sending their HS kids elsewhere than before. What does that tell u?

  6. I think I read $25000 to educate a student.. Is this accurate? The funds that are set up that are not for education but which are under the umbrella of the school district (why I will never understand) should not be part of EDUCATIONAL COST PER STUDENT. Seems like the funds ((are they really FUNDS) should be under town govt, not school govt.

    1. Mercer School FactsNovember 4, 2020 at 9:33 AM

      The actual cost for operating the school is $3,383,393 divided by 128, the number of students, = $26,433 per student. Total expenditures are budgeted at $3,541,113 minus $157,720, Community Service Fund 80 = $3,383,393. Fund 80 is the only expenditure which is not included as a cost to operate the school. All other projected expenditures – debt service, capital projects, food service –are necessary for operating the school, and, therefore, should be included in the cost per student.

  7. You are correct. Those are all expenses for the school necessary to educate each student.

    So numbers do not lie. Close this school already.

    Do it for the taxpayers, but more importantly do it for the students. They deserve a far better education than they can receive at Mercer School. This will also provide the students more opportunities.

  8. The elimination of Torkelson and some of his cronies has temporarily solved the hemorrhaging of money from the school.

    However the educational curriculum for the students is the responsibility of the district administrator, who should be monitoring it's development and implementation. One of the problems at Mercer School is that they don't have a set curriculum from year to year.

    This lack of consistency in curriculum from year to year may account for the poor test scores on state achievement exams.

  9. The curriculum will be unlikely to improve seeing as how the same people are still responsible for it.