District proposes new budget cuts: Potential halt on band and orchestra instrument funds


Photo credit: Annabelle Julien

By Kaitlyn Barr and Sophia Dragich

The school board has recently tasked a group of administrators with identifying $3 million in budget reductions by asking them to find places where district spending can be cut or reduced. Some of these cuts include reducing the amount of color copies printed, eliminating secretarial positions and reducing custodial and maintenance staff in certain district buildings.

The potential cuts also may impact students in the band and orchestra programs due to a decrease in yearly funding for instruments. Although the decision is not final, Superintendent Jon Dean says the group of administrators has proposed to not purchase new instruments for the next school year.

“Every year for the last six years we have been spending at least $100,000 on buying new instruments for the district,” Dean said. “We have been talking about not doing that refresh for next year. Students would still have instruments [and] those sorts of things, but we would not be buying new ones.”

Without being able to replenish and repair instruments, Director of Bands Tom Torrento worries students will no longer be motivated to come to school or participate in school activities.

“I can personally attest to at least two families in the last year who have chosen to stay in the GP school system over attending private schools because of our arts program and our athletics,” Torrento said. “If we can spend millions of dollars on turf fields, then asking for $100,000 a year to support programs that cater to hundreds of students in every building should not be too large an ask.”

In addition to student participation, financial burdens on students and their families is another concern surrounding the budget changes. Many students rent their instruments from the district if they cannot purchase their own. Senior and band member Maddie Loporto has rented her instrument for years and worries how the budget cuts will impact this.

“I play [the] euphonium, [and] I have rented it from the school ever since 5th grade,” LoPorto said. “Renting a low brass instrument is definitely very costly, ranging from $300 to $800 just to rent one for the year from a music shop. I was unable to rent [one there], so it was really helpful to rent from the school for free.”

Not being able to provide instruments for students to rent could cause issues for the band and orchestra programs, according to Torrento. He says the band program’s recent growth could be negatively impacted with these potential cuts in addition to adding hardships to the current students involved. 

“While we have been fortunate to have this money for the last four years, inflation has climbed and made it more difficult to acquire everything we truly need,” Torrento said. “Without this funding, in my opinion, we will struggle to fill instrumentation in a balanced manner as the program continues to grow.”

In addition, senior and band member Helen Aouad worries the band program could potentially have another decline in numbers going forward. She says that reducing the number of instruments gives students less opportunities, which could hinder student growth. 

“The rate of kids enrolling to play instruments will decrease once the instruments are no longer able to be loaned out,” Aouad said. “The program in recent years has rampantly built its numbers back up after COVID-19, but I am afraid such intense budget cuts will send the enrollment plummeting.” 

Through communication with the school board, Dean says his group has been listening to feedback and will make changes based on the recommendations until the budget is finalized in June of this year. Dean also says he is continuing to reach out to various groups to help make these changes less damaging for the people and programs in the district.

“I met with the Grosse Pointe Foundation for Public Education,” Dean said. “That is a charitable group that supports our school district, and they are thinking about other options and ways they may be able to help us next year.”