Blaine school district planning another round of teacher, staff cuts


The Blaine School Board swore in new members Ryan Swinburnson and Steve Galbraith to begin its March 25 meeting, in front of a packed crowd in the district boardroom.

The two new members, who replaced District 4 representative Ryan Ford and District 5 member Don Leu after abrupt resignations last month, were immediately charged with the task of approving a resolution to direct superintendent Christopher Granger to prepare a reduced education plan for the 2024-25 school year in anticipation of a $2.5 million budget deficit.

Granger told the board that letters to staff members will be sent Thursday, March 28, warning of the possibility that their positions will be terminated in an effort for the district to remain solvent.

State funding models reward higher enrollment with more funding, and Blaine school district has seen a consistent drop in enrollment since the 2019-20 school year. With the passing of a levy measure in the February special election, the district was able to recoup roughly 17 percent of its operating budget, avoiding even steeper cuts, but still face a $2.5 million deficit. State law requires school districts to balance its budget every year.

The state legislative session provided some nominal funding relief for special education, material costs and some classified staffing, but according to a March 25 district business office report, won’t make a big enough difference by next month’s board meeting.

“While these revenue adds are welcome and helpful,” the report read. “They do not address the extent of the district’s funding shortfall.”

District 2 board member Ben Lazarus, in attempt to find “creative solutions” to the impending budget cuts, sought a vote to authorize the superintendent to renegotiate contracts with the teacher’s union and the classified staff union (Service Employees International Union) to voluntarily pause its raises.

Lazarus cited $1.6 million in scheduled raises for teachers, classified staff (custodial, maintenance, paraeducators, cafeteria and transportation) and administrators. Of those raises, $1.1 million would go to teachers, $300,000 to classified staff, and $200,000 for administrators.

Shane Levetsovitis, a school bus driver and president of Blaine’s local SEIU chapter, spoke publicly at the Monday meeting, saying any attempt to delay pay raises would be rejected by the classified staff union.

“We’re not even going to entertain the idea of pay freezes, that’s just not going to happen,” Levetsovitis said. “But I’m also asking that the board does not approve any budget reduction plan that impacts classified staff at all. We bled hard last year, so we’re about done with that.”

During last year’s budget cuts, roughly 50 staff positions were impacted to budget restraints, many of which were classified staff.

The union leader asked the board to consider cuts to administrators and district positions, instead of SEIU positions.

“A pay freeze for an administrator may mean a conversation in their household is a difference in vacation,” Levetsovitis said. “A pay freeze for classified staff is, in some cases, ‘Does the power stay on?’”

During the meeting, Granger said the district is nearing the final phase of its budget cut planning, and will have a finalized 2024-25 budget for the board to approve at next month’s meeting on Monday, April 22 at the district boardroom at 770 Mitchell Avenue. 


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