Kalamazoo, Portage schools OK budgets with big cuts

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kalamazoo and Portage public school districts on Monday approved budget cuts to deal with multimillion-dollar funding deficits linked to coronavirus.

In a 6-1 vote, the Kalamazoo Public Schools Board of Education approved $7.4 million in cuts to deal with the shortfall. That’s going to include a decrease in staff, including 10 from high schools, pay cuts for those making more than $11 per hour and the elimination of the Lift Up Through Literacy program.

During a virtual meeting, Board President Patti Sholler-Barber praised administrators for their close attention to detail in slimming down the budget, saying they managed to keep all the district’s behavioral staff members on the payroll and prevent cuts from affecting “the most vulnerable” students. She also pointed out that art and music programs weren’t being cut.

The budget can still be revised through September as the district learns more from the state about exactly what funding will look like.

Portage Public Schools approved a budget with about $8 million in cuts, with Superintendent Mark Bielang also noting that adjustments could be made as the picture from the state becomes clearer. Paula Johnson, the director of finance for the district, said she thought the budget she laid out was a “worst-case scenario of what could happen.”

Cuts included the elimination of funding for middle school athletics and elimination of library purchasing. There were also several staffing cuts, including laying off 36 teachers; cutting some 60 paraprofessionals — about half the number of parapros within the district — and laying off four administrative support staff people.

The budget passed in a 5-2 vote during a virtual meeting.

Also Monday, Grand Rapids Public Schools approved budget cuts totaling $10.6 million.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to release her plan for safe in-person schooling Tuesday.

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