Fewer Teachers, No Closings This Year

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Lansing School District administrators presented their proposed 2006-07 budget to board members Monday night. The proposal calls for fewer teachers, but no school closings for now.

After $30 million in school cuts over the last three years, the Lansing schools financial chief says this year's cuts were tough to make.

"The cuts were much harder. It's impacting staff to a greater level than (in) prior years," Chief Financial Officer Scott Powers said.

The budget plan calls for a smaller staff, but Powers says there are things that won't be cut.

"For once, we tried to avoid closing (or) consolidating schools," he said.

The budget proposes looking at closing two to four schools for the 2007-08 school year.

That leaves an $8 million budget gap this year, so what exactly will be cut?

"With the enrollment decline alone we will cut 25 teachers," Powers said.

That is: Fewer teachers because the district has fewer students. Lansing has lost nearly two thousand students since 2002. The district's CFO sees a new reason for the lower numbers.

"Kids and families (are) moving where the jobs are, and unfortunately that's not here in Michigan right now," Powers said.

That financial reality means teacher cuts will be just the beginning.

The administration is planning to cut assistant principal positions at one high school and several grade schools. And with fewer department heads being and support staff cuts, Powers anticipates the district will employ roughly 50 fewer people next year.

The district will also wait to buy school buses, cut $1.5 million in funding for special education, and save roughly $3.5 million thanks to cheaper healthcare for employees.

The district will also use more than a million dollars from its reserve fund.

And there is one small but interesting new revenue source: Using Lansing Public Schools educators to teach art and gym classes in Catholic schools.

"We anticipate first year $100,000 in new revenues (from that program)," Powers said.

Now, the budget is in the hands of board members. Most call the plan workable.

"They did a good job. Now it's time for us to look at it. There may be something to tweak, something to add. We have to roll up our sleeves and do the work," board Vice President Hugh Clarke said.

Administrators expect the board to make some changes to the proposal.

The new budget takes effect July 1, so a plan has to be finalized before then.