March 13 2013 12:00 AM

Lansing school board begins looking at budget cuts

Lansing School District Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul

Friday, Jan. 18 — The Lansing Board of Education has started to outline costs the district could cut to keep the budget in line.

“There are going to be some very tough decisions ahead of us,” District Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul said Thursday, when board members met in a budgetary work session. “We’re going to have to have some deep and continuing conversations about solvency.”

If the district did “absolutely nothing” to trim the budget, the district would run the almost $10 million into the red in the next school year, Caamul Canul said.

Caamal Canul outlined areas for the board where the district could save money with cuts. She said the items went “above and beyond” costs related to core instruction.

Board President Guillermo Lpez said the administration was simply starting the budget conversation, and that just because items were being discussed, it did not mean they would be cut. “This is not gospel,” he said.

There are over $10.5 million in “programmatic” cuts that could be made, Caamal Canul said. Key examples include art, music and physical education, which could be cut by $3.7 million; over $1.4 million that could be cut in “specialty schools” staff; some special education teachers and school assistants, which could be cut by roughly $3.3 million; and cutting the AdvancePath program, which could save about $866,000.

In terms of “operational” costs, there are over $7.5 million in possible areas that could be cut. Axing buses for grades 9 through 12 and specialty schools would save $1.3 million; athletic staff could be cut by almost $1.4 million; and public safety cuts would save $600,000. Caamul Canul also said that if there were a 5 percent reduction in “discretionary budgets” across the board, there would be a savings of $1.25 million. If enrollment continues to decline, there could be staffing cuts that would save $2 million.

There could also be savings through contract negotiations, which will get rolling at the next board meeting on Jan. 24, Caamal Canul said.

Board member Myra Ford said it would be important to bring the various bargaining groups to the table to see where they believed there could be cuts.

“Sometimes the people closest to the picture know where money could be saved,” she said.

Board member Nino Rodriguez thanked the administration for “starting the process” and coming forward with some ideas so early in the year.