Looming school cuts outlined at community forum

Published on Thu, Mar 26, 2009 by Jack Kintner

Read More News

Cautioning that the final picture won’t be clear until the Washington state legislature actually passes a budget, Blaine superintendent of schools Ron Spanjer gave more shape to impending school cuts at a community forum last week at the performing arts center.

Blaine’s 2009-2010 budget will need to be cut up to 5 percent, or about $1.24 million, to a figure of about $22 million. Spanjer cautioned that the district is working with the best possible estimates from the governor’s office but that the budget deficit might actually be more than predicted. “We really don’t know what will happen until the legislature acts,” he said.

Although the biggest reductions, ranging from $205,000 to $355,000 depending upon the severity of the budget cuts, come from non-employee related costs such as supplies, services, travel and capital expenditures, the most visible cuts and or revenue increases will occur in the athletic department. In order to achieve a 15 percent reduction to save $80,000, suggestions include eliminating the third tier or “C” teams (which gives less talented students who cannot make the varsity or JV teams a chance to compete), charging fees for individual athletes (“pay to play”) and increasing charges for outside groups such as the AAU to use school facilities.

The “pay to play” revenue plan would charge students $30 for the first sport, $20 for the second and $10 for the third each year. Middle school students would pay a flat $30 fee. This would generate about $20,000 per year but would not offset the $32,000 cost of fielding the C teams. Spanjer said that there are ongoing meetings at the league level with superintendents, principals and athletic directors to sustain the third tier “C” teams without it costing educational efforts in the classroom.

“If we’re going to charge our own students to play then outsiders should also be asked to pitch in. We’re considering increasing the fees from $10 to $40 per participant, but that would be phased in over a number of years,” Spanjer said.

The educational non-profit Menta Group out of Chicago announced three weeks ago that they intend to close the alternative Timber Ridge high school that provides services to about 45 Blaine students at a cost of $350,000. Spanjer said that he felt Blaine will be able to offer the same services for $100,000 less.

Blaine’s state funding will also decline due to gradual but sustained enrollment declines, Spanjer said. Enrollment is down 50 this year from what was anticipated for budgeting, and with another 20 less next year, such declines would mandate staffing adjustments even with a good economy. The next community meeting is April 14 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. For more information call office at 332-5881.