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Grand Rapids Schools approves budget to address projected $22 million dollar deficit

This fall Grand Rapids Public Schools will be able to avoid cuts to transportation, art and music. But Michigan’s third largest school district will eliminate close to 140 positions as part of a plan to deal with a projected $22 million dollar budget shortfall.

The vote for the budget was unanimous, in sharp contrast to last year. That was a huge relief for Superintendent Bernard Taylor, for a moment anyway.

“As we move forward we do have a lot of challenges that we have to confront because while we have a budget for 11-12, we start immediately to look at 12-13 and what could be an even more difficult process.”

(I must mention here that people have been commenting on how long Dr. Taylor will be in Grand Rapids. He’s one of three finalists for the CEO at Cleveland Metropolitan Schools. This is the second time that I’m aware of that he’s been a finalist for another position.

 Board President Senita Lenear noted to me late last month that several key administrators, including CFO Lisa Freiburger, are leaving as well. So they’re ready to consider leadership change.

Cleveland Schools will have a closed meeting early Tuesday morning. They have several options, including making an offer. But they could also opt for planned site visits to Grand Rapids, or re-open the search.)


School Board Secretary Wendy Falb is worried the cuts this year may impact students.

“The vote may look easy but I think these cuts are going to be difficult and as we go forward I think we need to hold ourselves responsible to evaluate what the ramifications of these cuts are to assess that we made the best choices as we face further cuts in the following year.”

The board’s plan uses more than $5 million dollars from their savings. The budget plan assumes at least $4 million dollars in concessions from employees that have yet to be negotiated. The district also expects to lose 400 students next fall.

The schools board will not have to make cuts to art and music programs, or transportation. They also made it a priority to avoid making athletics pay to play.

Lindsey Smith is Michigan Radio’s investigative reporter. She previously served as Michigan Radio’s Morning News Editor and West Michigan Reporter.
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