School board President Dina Horne agreed.
“These are difficult times and these numbers are no fun,” she said. “It is with great heaviness that we approach” the resolution to lay off teachers.
Furton said that rising retirement costs, along with lumping higher education in with the state’s K-12 school budget and the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax, have or will hurt the district’s budget.
Seniority was a factor in choosing which teachers were laid off, Furton said. A few of the layoffs did not involve teachers with the lowest levels of seniority, he said.
Electives were hit hardest of all — although a few of the teachers who were eliminated were in core areas such as math or science, he said.
There is still a possibility that the actual number of teachers laid off could be smaller, Furton said. The current budget is built on assumptions of variables such as enrollment and the state budget.
“Once we have a firm number on any of those, we will revise our assumptions,” Furton said when asked by board Secretary Dennis Devlin if the number of teachers being eliminated could be reduced.
Furton said 16 was a high number, but it was needed to give the district flexibility.
The district budget should be finalized by the end of June, Furton said.
Laurie Draeger, president of the Spring Lake Education Association — the local teachers union — said that this is a depressing time for her.
“After the board meeting, there were people in tears,” she said this morning. “We pretty much knew that with the shortfall of funds coming from Lansing that plans had to be made to address the possibility of not being able to fund positions we had.”
Draeger added that she hopes the district will get better news from the state government.
The board also voted to eliminate the equivalent of seven full-time paraprofessionals.
Altogether, these layoffs will save the district $970,000 per year, Furton said.
The school board also passed a resolution to eliminate midday busing for the next school year. This will save the district $50,000, Furton said.
A shuttle bus will still run from Jeffers Elementary School to K-Kids, a program for kindergartners that runs on the opposite half of their school day. The class is taught at Spring Lake Middle School. More spaces for students could possibly be made available in this program, Furton said.
The board approved sharing Peg Panici, the Spring Lake district’s food service director, with Allendale Public Schools. She will stand in for the Allendale food service director, who is retiring at the end of the current school year, Furton said.
Panici will be the third staff member to be shared with another district — including Scott Powers, who splits his services as chief financial officer with Allendale and Spring Lake public schools. Furton said there will likely be more shared positions.