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Saint Joseph Public Schools announces budget cuts

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SAINT JOSEPH, Mich. -- The Saint Joseph Public School district is facing major budget cuts for the upcoming school year.

The superintendent introduced the district’s “budget roadmap” during Monday night’s school board meeting.

He says he knows these changes may make people uncomfortable, but after the damage the coronavirus pandemic has done to the state, public schools don’t have another choice.

“This is nothing that we would want to do, nothing that we would choose, this is strictly put upon us from decreased revenues at the state,” said Dr. Thomas Bruce, Saint Joseph Public Schools superintendent.

Dr. Bruce said the economic impact of COVID-19 has been so severe on the state of Michigan that the government won’t have nearly the amount of funds for schools as they had just one year ago.

“It caused everybody to stay at home with the stay home orders, which drastically decreased revenue for the state,” said Dr. Bruce, “If you look at the revenues from April 2019 in the state of Michigan and compared those to to April 2020, you’re going to find a 43% reduction.”

So what does that mean for the students?

$700 in cuts per student for the current school year, as well as next year. The district says that amounts to $4.2 million in cuts.

The plan is to reallocate funds in three categories — transportation, attrition and line item reductions. On top of this, Saint Joseph Public Schools will have to pay the state $2.1 million dollars due to revenue the government has lost due to COVID-19.

“The catch is it’s $2.1 million this year, in the school year 19-20 and no one’s here –  the school year’s over – and yet we are still likely to be docked $2.1 million in the next few weeks,” said Dr. Bruce, “And on top of that, we’ll take another reduction of $2.1 million reduction next year for 2021.”

Thankfully, the district will be able to cover this with an equity balance of 16% from their savings account.

Dr. Bruce says while it’s going to be a difficult time for public schools across the state, they’re exhausting every option to not change the classroom experience for students and teachers.

“When I take the average salary and benefits of a teacher, that’s about 16 teachers. So when I say $2.1 million reduction for next year, I’m not threatening our teachers at all,” said Bruce. “We’re trying to save our classroom environments so our students have the best education possible.”

Dr. Bruce also noted that the state doesn’t have a budget proposed until the end of September each year, so districts are creating a budget based on information that hasn’t been totally defined yet.

By the time they meet with the state, they do plan to see if more funds can be allocated to the district.

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