State approves education budget cuts

Published on Wed, Apr 14, 2010 by Pat Grubb

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Blaine school district appears to have dodged at least a few bullets as it wends its way through the budget setting process for the 2010/2011 school year. Although the state budget included significant cuts to education funding, the size of the cuts were at the lower end of estimates the school district had been using to set budget priorities.

Addressing a full house of teachers, administrators, school board members and residents at a Monday night budget forum, district superintendent Ron Spanjer said “We feel we have enough on the budget to avoid further cuts in staff from what we have recommended.” He cautioned listeners that the “biggest thing to keep in mind is that the budget process isn’t done.”

The state budget, adopted Tuesday, April 13, eliminated voter-approved I-728 student achievement funds, the fourth grade component of K-4 class size enhancement monies as well as the last state-funded professional development day.

Although the budget was adopted the day after the district meeting, the scope of the cuts was known by the administration if only recently. The fluidity of the budget process was evident when Spanjer remarked that the district would need to make up another $80,000, a shortfall that only came up in the last 24 hours before the meeting.

Overall, the district is looking at a budget cut of 4 percent from the year before. The board had asked the administration to prepare budget scenarios that called for 4, 5 and 6 percent cutbacks, meaning the budget now appears to be headed towards the lower end of the scale.

Asked later to describe the mood of the mostly silent and serious audience, Spanjer replied, “One of relief,” adding that the cuts were lower than feared. Board member Charles Gibson said, “What I appreciate is that the budget has spread the pain around a lot. Everyone is paying a little, no one is paying a lot.”

The next step in the budget process comes on April 26 when the board will be asked to accept the administration’s program reduction recommendations. Among the recommendations will be a consolidation of bus runs for Point Roberts students, adjustments in food service and staff cuts across the certificated/non-certificated spectrum. It is anticipated there will be reductions of 1.5 full-time equivalents (FTE) at the K-2 level and 1 FTE at the high school, partly due to enrollment driven staffing.

The budget is expected to receive final approval in July. For more information, go online to www.blaine.wednet.edu/bsd/Budget/budgetreview.htm.