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No one comments on Grand Rapids schools’ plan to deal with biggest budget shortfall

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
There were more reporters and school officials than members of the public at a public hearing on Grand Rapids Public Schools budget for the 2011-2012 school year.

Grand Rapids Public Schools is facing a $22 million dollar budget deficit for next school year. That’s the largest shortfall Michigan’s third biggest school district has faced.

The plan to close the gap includes eliminating close to 140 positions and use $5 million in savings. Despite that, no one showed up to speak at a public hearing on the school budget Thursday night.

Grand Rapids schools had so many people flooding their hearing on the budget this time last year, public safety officials had to cancel the meeting. They rescheduled it at a high school auditorium that sat more than 1,000 people.

After the short meeting last night, Grand Rapids schools Superintendent Bernard Taylor surveyed the rows of empty chairs. 

“I have no explanation for this. In some ways I wish more people had come. And in other ways it’s gratifying because they can see that a lot of work has gone into this; that we have spent a considerable amount of time educating people around the issues. Not only what the cuts are but what they mean for us.”

But Grand Rapids School Board President Senita Lenear shrugged it off.

“There have been a number of hearings regarding what was coming out of Lansing. So I think that most people were aware. So this wasn’t a surprise and we’ve talked about it quite a few times at our regularly scheduled board meetings to so I think this was just normal.”

Officials are hoping they will not have to make cuts to art and music programs, or transportation. They also want to avoid making athletics pay to play.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Radio’s Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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