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Budget crunch

Krystle Wagner • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:31 PM

The district will see a reduction of $81 for each student in its proposed state funding, in addition to a $470 per student drop in the foundation allowance that was implemented last school year, creating the $3 million gap between income and expenses.

Superintendent Keith Konarska said the amounts are at the same state funding levels as the 2005-06 school year.

School board Secretary Joanne Query said learning the challenges facing the district has been sobering and a reality check. She said the Grand Haven school system has managed to delay deeper cutbacks while other districts in Michigan have faced these issues earlier.

“Now, we have been brought to our knees,” Query said.

The school board has been asked to consider using $1 million from the district’s fund balance and making $2 million in "efficiencies" to balance the budget. Those efficiencies could include nearly 30 staff reductions.

More than $4 million is currently in the district's fund balance, which is used for unexpected expenses and providing financial support for programs, Konarska said.

Konarska said some staff positions that could be impacted by the cuts are teachers, administrators and support staff, once they are evaluated on their effectiveness.

Throughout the year, principals and assistant principals evaluate the district’s 373 teachers by looking at their individual performances, student growth, classroom management, demonstrated skills, accomplishments, contributions, attendance, discipline and relevant specialized training. Once the reports are completed by June 1, Scott Grimes, the district’s assistant superintendent of human services, said they will know how many teachers and non-teaching staff will be impacted by the reductions.

As school state funding decreases, Grimes said overall costs of operations — such as employee costs, insurance and school supplies — continue to rise, putting the district in the deficit situation. He said it’s a “very unfortunate situation,” and administrators have worked hard to keep the impacts to a minimum.

“It’s inevitable,” he said of the deeper cuts.

During the past 10 years, the district has reduced 67 staff positions by combining job responsibilities, shared services with local governments and other school districts, achieved contract concessions, and rented out space in its buildings.

Board Vice President John Siemion said the coming cuts will be the deepest and most challenging in the 15 years he's been on the school board.

“This is one of the toughest decisions I’m going to have to make,” he said.

Query said it’s heartbreaking to face staff reductions and funding challenges.

“We’re all going to have to step up with this burden at the end of the year when you normally celebrate,” she said.

While state legislators continue discussing bills that could impact funding and education, the Grand Haven school board won't be holding its breath. Siemion said he’s working on letters to legislators and the governor because, he said, it’s frustrating that they continue to make cuts to education after claiming that finding a solution is a priority.

“We can’t do the job we need to,” he said.

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