School district faces $400,000 in cuts

Published on Wed, Jan 19, 2011 by By Jeremy Schwartz

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The Blaine school district could face nearly $400,000 in funding reductions for the remainder of the 2010/2011 school year even as the district braces for deeper cuts for next school year.

Superintendent Ron Spanjer presented the district’s plans for reducing spending at a budget work session last Thursday. The cuts are based on the state’s plan to chop educational spending in order to close a $4.6 billion budget gap as well as a shortfall in property tax receipts.

The reductions would mean less money for school, office and facilities maintenance supplies and reductions in each district department’s reserve funds, Spanjer said. However, the district will hold onto its reserve funds, which must be at least 5 percent of the total budget as mandated by the school board, he said.

The biggest chunk of the district’s spending reductions stems from the state’s plan to cut K-4 staff funding, district business manager Amber Porter said. Based on enrollment numbers, this means about $230,000 less for the district this school year, Porter said.

The second largest chunk comes from $170,000 in unpaid property taxes, Porter explained.

“The ability to collect [property taxes] got a little bit more grim this year,” Porter said.

 In addition to the state legislature’s proposed education cuts, the district is also facing a cut off of federal stimulus funds, about $308,000 per year, Spanjer said. The funding was only provided for two years.

The district, along with most others in the state, has been planning for this eventual “funding cliff” for the past year, Spanjer said.

Spanjer explained the recommendations avoid cutting staff for two reasons: The district does not want to endanger programs by removing teachers half way through the year, and certified employees’ contracts are in place for the rest of the school year.
However, Spanjer predicted staffing cuts will be all but unavoidable once budget considerations start for the 2011/2012 school year.

The largest part of the $390,000 in proposed cuts consists of $107,000 in teaching materials, office supplies, athletic equipment and travel expenses.

Another district area hit hard by the proposed cuts is the facilities maintenance department. Facilities supervisor Jim Kenoyer said the reductions in maintenance spending, about $49,000, would remove about 1,200 hours of summer maintenance work and impact the funds available for unexpected repairs.

“We’re getting to the point where all the optional things are gone,” Kenoyer said.

Other reductions include $30,000 less from the state for special education and $42,000 less for support staff professional development.

The board will most likely vote on these recommended reductions at its January 24 meeting.

The board only needs to approve the reductions that have to do with employment, such as the adjustments to substitute teacher salaries and assigning two substitute bus drivers to positions left vacant by two retiring full-time drivers.