Blaine school board approves $70 million bond for November 5 election


The Blaine school board voted unanimously to put a $70 million capital bond initiative before voters in the November 5 general election.
Funding provided by the bond would go toward an extensive renovation and modernization of Blaine Middle School, field upgrades and additions to the Pipeline Athletic Complex, and various improvements to Blaine primary and elementary schools, Point Roberts Primary School and designs for a possible Birch Bay school, according to district documents.
The initiative is practically identical to the February 2024 special election bond proposal that failed to reach the required 60 percent supermajority, which would keep tax rates for the bond at $0.76 per $1,000 in assessed home value as existing bonds expire over the next decade.
For a median-value home of $550,000, the property owner would pay $420 annually for the bond, if approved.
Among Whatcom and Skagit county school districts, Blaine has one of the lowest tax rates for bonds and levies, with the second-lowest combined tax rate at $1.61 per $1,000 in assessed property value, just above the Concrete school district’s rate of $1.41.
Compared to 20 other school districts across the state with similar home values across district boundaries, Blaine still ranks toward the bottom in tax rates, just above Sequim school district’s $1.30 rate, according to data compiled by investment bank Piper Sandler and presented to the board during the meeting.
Ballots are expected to be mailed by October 18 for the November 5 election. Superintendent Christopher Granger said the district preferred a November election date for the bond because of the likelihood of a high turnout due to the presidential election compared to the typically low turnout for a school-related tax in August special elections.
The bond requires a 60 percent supermajority with at least 40 percent of the voters who participated in the last general election. About 5,760 people voted for last election’s bond measure, with 58 percent voting to approve it, just shy of clearing the supermajority hurdle.
The board will now move to formally appoint a “For” committee, with Kevin Reid, Jaime Arnett and Jenna Schrengohst named as preliminary candidates for the committee.
An “Against” committee has yet to receive any volunteers from the public, but anyone interested can contact the superintendent’s office at 360/332-5881. “Against” committee members are required to be registered voters residing within school district boundaries, according to the district.

Superintendent contract renewed through 2026-27

In a 3-2 vote, the school board approved Granger’s contract through the 2026-27 school year. Erika Creydt and Steve Galbraith voted against the contract, and Ryan Swinburnson, Ben Lazarus and board president Cliff Freeman voted to ratify the contract.
Galbraith previously cited what he saw as inconsistencies in the language of the contract as reason not to vote for the renewal, and Creydt has repeatedly voted against renewals of Granger’s contract, as recently as last year.
Granger’s base salary will start at $218,270 for the 2024-25 school year, and is based on the mean annual salaries of superintendents for the Anacortes, Lakewood, Granite Falls, Mt. Baker, Sultan and Lynden school districts.
Granger has served as superintendent of the Blaine school district since the 2019-20 school year, and has overseen the district through pandemic closures and multiple multi-million dollar budget and staffing cuts.
The board was set to vote on Granger’s contract at the May 28 meeting, but postponed the vote to the June 17 meeting.

Keith Yaich hired as new finance director

The board announced a new director of finance, Keith Yaich, who is set to replace former finance director Amber Porter. Porter stepped down from the Blaine role in January for a similar position at the Oak Harbor school district. Since stepping down, the district has contracted Porter to continue to prepare the upcoming 2024-25 budget, which is set to be publicly presented July 10.
Yaich previously worked as chief financial officer of the Bennett school district, outside of Denver, Colorado.
Yaich will officially begin as director of finance on July 1, and will work with the board, superintendent Granger, and Porter to get up to speed throughout the month of July, according to Granger.


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