They may be hoping for the best but the Blaine school board is preparing for the worst. District superintendent Ron Spanjer told board members Monday night at their regular monthly meeting that school administrators had been directed to project the impact of funding cuts ranging from 4 to 6 percent in the next budget cycle. The cuts would apply to staffing as well as educational and operational programs and budgets.
The board had asked the administration in December to initiate a tiered program reduction approach to the budget given known and expected cuts in the district’s funding for next year.
The lion’s share of the district’s funding is based upon student enrollment, a number which has declined in recent years. Currently, the student population stands at 2,062 students, slightly above projection. Spanjer pointed out there was a higher degree of student ‘churning’ due, he believes, to the economy forcing people to live in extended families for a while before moving on.
According to Spanjer, the district expects to lose $308,000 in federal stimulus funding in 2011 while Initiative – 278 ($209,000) and K-4 class size enhancement ($284,000) funding is in jeopardy for next year. School officials will not know the full extent of the funding cuts until the state legislature finishes its work in late March.
What they do know is, after being forced to make cuts to the current year’s budget, further cuts are going to hurt. “If the district has to cut 6 percent from the budget next year,” said Spanjer, “these reductions are going to have a significant effect on personnel and programs.” Administrators had been asked to consider the impact of cuts of 4, 5, and 6 percent.
The administration has scheduled a series of meetings and forums to determine the direction the school district should take in implementing costs. Following meetings with administrators, union representatives and staff members, the board will meet in a work session to review anticipated cuts. After that, there will be two community forums to review and discuss the proposals before the board authorizes the necessary steps. The resulting Reduced Education Program Plan would be adopted at the board’s April 26 meeting; the adoption of which would set the staff reduction process into motion. The final budget would be approved in the latter part of August.
The district is concurrently holding a series of community meetings to discuss long-range planning. Spanjer told the board that turnout at the four sessions held to date “has been good with about 80 people attending.” The purpose of the meetings was not to delve into the “nitty-gritty” said Spanjer but rather to determine the broad outlines of where the school district should be in five and 10 years’ time.