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Grand Rapids Public Schools to vote on possible budget cuts

Posted at 6:15 AM, Jun 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-29 06:16:53-04

GRAND RAPIDS — Grand Rapids Public Schools is the state's eighth largest public school district with nearly 15,000 students, and just under 11,000 teachers.

But those numbers could change if the district doesn't get some help with their budget shortfall.

"We're looking at a $1.1 billion shortfall in the state school aid fund, which is for the 2019-2020 school year that ends in less than a week and a half and that's for just the 2019-20 school year," said John Helmholdt, Executive Director of Communications & External Affairs for GRPS.

"There's another billion dollar school aid fund shortfall for the 2020-2021 school year so we are looking at the single largest per pupil cut in our recent history of $650 per student, which is the equivalent of nearly $11 million for Grand Rapids Public Schools."

You may be asking yourself, how did this happen? COVID-19 of course.

"The state school aid fund is funded vast majority is through state sales tax and income tax, and the state budget overall took a dramatic hit as a result of COVID-19."

"You can imagine with the stay at home order that went into effect March 12, all the way through present day so there's just significantly less revenue collected through state sales tax, and state income tax," Helmholdt said.

It's why GRPS and many other schools in Michigan are preparing for the worst when finalizing their 2021 budgets.

"So the total jobs impacted in this proposed budget is 102 individuals about 20% are vacant positions and as of right now we have 13 school buildings that have enrollment that is at 260 students or less, and they're at about 50% capacity," he said.

On Friday, the school board announced the decision to no longer consider any school closures or changes to Montessori programs.

Despite the cuts, GRPS says it's hopeful help is on the way/

"The legislature and the governor and our federal government has put us in a very difficult spot to have to pass these budgets, with so many uncertainties," Helmholdt said.

"We are hopeful that the federal funding will be granted the flexibility we are hopeful that there will be additional round of federal funding we are hopeful that the state will use a portion of their rainy day fund to backfill these budget deficits, but barring any clear direction, we are forced to have to pass these budgets by June 30, and that's what our board is scheduled to do."