The Blaine school board voted 5-0 to adopt a resolution at its March 27 regular meeting that instructs Blaine school district administration to prepare a reduced education plan for the 2023-24 school year. The plan is expected to be approved at the board’s April 24 regular meeting and include staff layoffs.
District financial officer Amber Porter recommended the school board, at its February 27 meeting, instruct superintendent Christopher Granger to prepare a reduced education plan because the district would likely be penalized for miscalculating its budget for the current school year. Blaine saw fewer students enroll this year, especially kindergarten students whose numbers dropped significantly more than was budgeted.
Because the state overfunded the district, Porter previously said the district will receive significantly less in funding next school year.
Granger said during the February meeting once the state realizes it overfunded the district, it will look to balance it by underfunding.
Blaine is not alone. Schools across western Washington are currently facing declining enrollment and budgeting issues.
Seattle public schools is up against multimillion-dollar budget deficits for the 2023-24 school year, and nearly 30 employees at the district could be laid off next year, according to Seattle news outlets. Bellevue and Mercer Island school districts are considering consolidating or eliminating schools to account for drops in enrollment. The Everett school district board has approved a plan to eliminate as many as 142 positions to account for a $28 million deficit.
Blaine school board’s action will allow Granger and district administration to formally look for areas where cuts can be made and to bring forward a plan in April.
As of March 22, enrollment was 50 students below budget, an increase from the beginning of the school year. Kindergarten enrollment alone was down over 40 students in September.
Porter previously estimated that one student accounts for at least $11,320 in current year revenue.
The district’s current fund balance is tracking nearly $2 million ahead of the past two years, but Porter said federal elementary and secondary school emergency relief (ESSER) funds issued due to the pandemic cushion that balance.
Granger said during the March 27 meeting he appreciated the work from department and administrative leaders who have contributed to helping the district deal with its budget deficit. He said layoffs will be necessary and that the action will allow district leaders to start having conversations with possible impacted staff.
“We will do it delicately,” Granger said. “We appreciate the people we employ. We know this is emotional, not just for those who are impacted but those who are having those discussions.”
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