RCAPS Board considers budget-cutting moves

REED CITY — District demonstrators and members of the Reed City Area Public Schools Board of Education aren’t sure if they are going to need to start hacking and slashing the budget once again.

Final budget numbers aren’t yet known.

But they are not waiting until the last minute.

Plans are being discussed. Options are being reviewed.

It’s not pleasant work.

“We don’t have a choice,” said district superintendent Steven Westhoff. “We need to try and be prepared.”

The district board has been meeting and looking at every potential way of cutting deeply into the budget once again. They are looking across the board. Everything is on the table ... except contractually covered items.

“We went back and reviewed every single line item available to us on the budget sheet,” explained Westhoff. “Basically, everything went on the list of potential cuts. We then starting paring down removing what were considered essentials, and adding things that may have been overlooked.”

On a list of items prepared for board consideration, things look tough.

They are.

The district is considering everything from minor cuts in personnel in the transportation program, to a total elimination of the busing program all together.

Please note, nothing has been determined. Nothing has been decided.

On the list of options are simply listed ALL the alternatives — from bad, to worse, to worst.

The district will be considering laying off up to seven para-pro support staff.

Also on the potential chopping block are eight, 12 or 16 certified teaching positions — depending on just how deep the board is forced to make cuts.

It’s all on the table, including administrative positions.

The district is considering cutting the Quiz Bowl, Spaghetti Bridge, Youth in Government, Poetry Club and other non-athletic programs.

And athletics could potentially be hit as well with the Board eyeing everything from cross country to golf, and a number of freshman level sporting programs.

“We don’t want to start cutting programs that are simply going to end up driving students away from this district,” said Westhoff.

“We just need to have everything up for discussion so that we can make clear and well considered decisions when the time comes.

“At this stage, we aren’t even sure when the time is going to come, and what the final figures will be with regard to the budget cutting that is affecting public education around the state and throughout our area.

“We need to be aware of the situation. We need to be on top of things so that there are no surprises.

“We are reviewing everything in our budget ... everything.

“We’ve already reduced our budget by several million dollars. We already axed positions and line items last time around. Now, if things weren’t chopped, they are back on the table again.

“It’s painful to need to do this, but that is simply the way we are being forced to do business by the folks in Lansing.”

The RCAPS Board has already spent two work sessions reviewing and discussing options.

A third such session is planned for the near future and Westhoff believes the board will begin making at least tentative plans for budget cuts — depending on what comes down from the state.

“If we need to cut the maximum figure — $1.6 million — we need to be ready,” he said.

“We may make decisions, but not implement action until such time as it becomes necessary.

“That depends entirely on Lansing.

“This could be painful — tot he district and the community.

“We have the potential for having to eliminate up to 25-30 jobs.

“That’s the kind of cuts we’re looking at.

“The situation is ridiculous - especially if people realize there is money to support K-12 education, but that money is being siphoned off to support community colleges and universities.”