Blaine school district reacts to state education cuts

Published on Thu, Jun 16, 2011 by Jeremy Schwartz

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Cuts to education funding from the state legislature were not quite as bad as Blaine school district officials were expecting, but tough choices remain as officials start working out the details of the 2011/2012 budget.

Governor Chris Gregoire is expected to approve a 2011/2013 biennial budget that cuts K-12 education funding by $1.1 billion, with an additional $179 million cut for teacher salaries.

However, the majority of teachers’ salaries are negotiated via teachers unions, so school districts statewide will have to determine how to deal with $179 million less from the state if teachers do not agree to salary cuts.

For the Blaine school district, the state budget means about $200,000 less per year for employee salaries, district superintendent Ron Spanjer said. District officials had been preparing for a cut as high as $300,000.

Spanjer said 25 reduction-in-force notices have been issued to district employees as part of the district’s reduced education program. The notices comprise 14 classified positions, such as library technicians and food service workers, 10 certified positions, such as teachers and counselors, and one administrative position.

Spanjer is currently in negotiations with the unions representing teachers, classified staff and principals over possible salary reductions to help offset the state cuts. He said the goal of the talks is to work out a deal that holds on to important programs and makes sure employees are paid fairly.

“We want to see as many people employed and programs in place as possible,” Spanjer said.

Negotiations with the unions are all part of a larger budget process that district business manager Amber Porter said will produce a draft 2011/2012 budget for public review by July 10.

The Blaine school board of directors and district officials will spend the summer working out the details of the budget, which the board must approve before the school year starts in September. 

Porter said the Blaine school district is not any worse off than any other district in the county when it comes to budget negotiations.

In fact, the layout of the district’s campus allows staff and faculty to be more effectively shared between buildings, thereby cutting down on transportation costs.