KALAMAZOO (WOOD) — Kalamazoo Public Schools got its first look at next year’s budget Thursday, and it includes cuts of over $7.4 million.
Deputy Superintendent Gary Start presented the budget to the Board of Education during an evening virtual meeting.
He pointed out at the start of his presentation that school budgets, including KPS’s, are “heavily and necessarily employee intensive.” He said employee salary and benefits make up 83.5% of the district’s general fund costs. He said there is “no way to cut without affecting employees.”
Michigan school districts were warned in May they could see per-pupil cuts of between $830 and $2,070. Earlier this month, State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice projected the cut would be $685 per student. Start presented both figures but used the June estimates to assume a $7.4 million deficit.
He noted that in his 36 years in education, the worst single-year decrease he had ever seen was $470 per student in 2011.
He somberly presented his proposed spending cuts to the board via PowerPoint. Suggested moves include devoting 5% less to athletics, elimination of five positions from each high school and a 1.33% reduction to salaries with no step increases.
The district is negotiating with unions about salary decreases, which would amount to more than $1.3 million in savings. Start pointed out no one making $11 per hour would be cut.
Board Treasurer Ken Greshchak commented that parents were concerned about cuts to arts and music programs. Start said he has had preliminary discussions with the high schools about what positions could be cut and that arts and music classes would see minimal impact.
He declined to say which positions at Kalamazoo Central and Loy Norrix are being considered for elimination.
Board President Patti Sholler-Barber said she was disappointed the substitute teacher bonus was also on the table to be slashed. Sholler-Barber said that with higher unemployment, there may be a bigger pool from which to draw subs and the bonus is attractive to them.
Other cost-saving measures include the discontinuation of the Lift Up For Literacy program, the elimination of mock trial and FCCLA nationals, the reduction of nonsalary budgets by 5%, eliminating multiple vacant positions and the combination of the principal and Pre-kindergarten Early Education Program coordinator position at Greenwood Elementary.
Another unknown in budget preparations is the cost to reopen in the fall. Start and new Superintendent Dr. Rita Raichoudhuri say they don’t know yet what the state will require. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced earlier this week her office would release her Return to School Road Map on June 30.
The board held several listening sessions at the beginning of June to solicit input on how to balance this budget. It will vote on the 2021-2021 budget at its next meeting June 25.