Deficit Likely Means Millions in Mid-Year School Cuts

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They are, along with things like taxes, often the deciding factor in where a family settles.

"We live in DeWitt and we basically decided to move there because of the school system," Margie Wegener told us Thursday.

But schools across mid-Michigan stand to lose millions because of the state's budget deficit. If the entire $210 per pupil promised to schools at the beginning of the year disappears, the Lansing School District could lose roughly $3.2 million.

More likely, the district could face a cut of $900,000 to $2.5 million, based on cuts of between $60 to $160 out of that $210 per pupil increase.

Jackson could lose between $400,000 to $1.1 million under those same estimates. A district the size of East Lansing or Charlotte could lose roughly between $200,000 and $500,000.

Although the districts budgeted for that extra money, even if the largest possible mid-year cuts materialize, the schools would still have just about the same amount of money they had the year before.

Still, economists say there is cause for concern.

"If you take into account inflation, I'm almost certain we are talking about a real cut," said Charles Ballard, economics professor at Michigan State University.

Ballard says for now, Michigan's school funding is relatively even with other states. Teachers are paid higher on average, for example. But he says cuts that could mean mid-year teacher layoffs don't bode well for the future.

"If you carry some of the trends in funding cuts that we've seen in recent years out for very much longer, we will have a very mediocre K-12 system ... And I don't think that's the direction we want to go in," Ballard said.

In order to boost funding, spending will have to be cut or political leaders will have to reconsider another thing folks often think about when looking at where to live.

"...What the taxes are in comparison to some of the other states," Jody Kranz said.

Weighing potential tax increases or spending cuts will now likely be front-and-center for the governor and for the legislature.