Declining enrollment, revenue force school cuts

Published on Thu, Mar 5, 2009 by Jack Kintner

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Citing decreased enrollment, increased operating costs and declining state revenue, Blaine superintendent of schools Ron Spanjer has outlined proposed budget reductions up to $1.2 million for the 2009-2010 school year. The current year’s budget is $21.7 million.

In an e-mail to all district staff last week, Spanjer introduced the problem by saying that “The process of budget planning is compounded at this point by not knowing how much deeper the revenue reduction from the state legislature may be. 

“We continue to hear some pretty negative scenarios out of Olympia, but will likely have to wait until April to get more definitive numbers.”
Spanjer and school district business manager Donna DeAngelo earlier presented three scenarios at a board work session to deal with the anticipated declines, depending upon their severity. “Our projections are based on an overall reduction in funding from the state of Washington,” Spanjer said, “and there is also a portion of the Blaine program reduction that will be driven by lower enrollment and increasing operating costs. For the moment we are planning for potential reductions ranging from $865,000 to $1,265,000.”

Spanjer said that the next step is to open the process to review by staff and the general public with forums scheduled on Tuesday, March 10 and Tuesday, April 14, to be held from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in the Blaine school district board room.  A final recommendation for program reduction will go to the board for review and subsequent approval in late April.

“It is important to note that we will not know the actual depth of the need for reduction until the legislature has completed their work later this spring,” Spanjer emphasized. “While we may get some relief in the areas of Title I and special education in up to $300,000 in federal stimulus funds, there will likely be significant restrictions on how this money can be spent.

At this time, our goal is to absorb as much of the state revenue decline as possible with reductions in non staff areas.  Enrollment decline will have to be accounted for through staffing reduction, as it represents an ongoing loss of related revenue.”

Even at the lowest level of reductions, Spanjer’s plan cuts $200,000 or 2.5 positions in certificated staff time, 40 hours in classified staff time, $80,000 from the athletic program and $250,000 in non-employee expenditures such as supplies, professional development and contracted services.

Other possibilities include cutting $25,000 from the family service center and drawing down the district’s budget reserve $100,000 in the worst-case scenario.

Spanjer stressed that while some level of staffing reduction will be necessary in light of three consecutive years of overall enrollment decline, he remains committed to what he called the lowest level of adverse impact on teaching and learning while maintaining a maximum level of safety and supervision for students.

“We will do everything possible in this process to maintain the overall integrity of an exceptional educational program,” he said.